MSU environmental activities and accomplishments, from sources on and off-campus. For additional information on MSU environmental work, see these sources.


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Protecting Reproductive and Child Health
MSU AgBioResearch

Courtney Carignan works to ensure food, water and consumer goods are safe. In particular, she helps protect reproductive and child health by investigating mixtures of chemicals that could cause harm. More»

Following a passion, from the bright lights of the stage to the forest
MSU AgBioResearch

Emily Huff has always been driven by passion. Her love of music and a dream of Broadway stardom took her to Brandeis University to study music composition. While there, however, she struggled with the seemingly binary nature of life. More»

A Damming Trend

Hundreds of dams are being proposed for Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia. The negative social and environmental consequences affecting everything from food security to the environment ­greatly outweigh the positive changes of this grand-scale flood control, according to new research by ESPP Director Jiaguo Qi, Dr. Yadu Pohkrel, ESPP affiliated faculty, and others at Michigan State University. The results, published in the current issue of Nature Scientific Reports, are the first to tackle the potential environmental changes that the overall basin could experience from harnessing the region's hydropower. "The Mekong River is one of the few large and complex river systems that remains mostly undammed," said Pokhrel, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and the study's lead author. "However, the rapid socio-economic growth, increasing energy demands and geopolitical opportunities have led to basin-wide construction of large hydropower dams." More»

Meredith Gore: Ending Wildlife Crime

I am a conservation social scientist who has worked on studying human-environment relationships in an international context for almost 15 years. My work is participatory and focused on humans; although I do not have a geographic area in which I specialize, I have had the good fortune to collaborate with many stakeholders across Africa in particular. The problem of illegal trade in wild flora and fauna is not new. Trade in wildlife has been going on since the time of Marco Polo, and illegal trade has gone alongside the legal. What is new is the scope and scale of illegal trade in the last decade. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated illegal wildlife trade generates upwards of $23 billion for the illicit global economy on an annual basis; the illicit market continues to grow at a faster rate than the legal global economy. More»

Hydropower, innovations and avoiding international dam shame

“This article identifies that for hydropower to continue to make a contribution to sustainable energy it needs to consider from the outset the true costs, social, environmental and cultural that may be involved, and include those in the pricing of the infrastructure, including the eventual removal of the dam, rather than pass those on to the public in 30 years," said Emilio Moran, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences. More»


Challenges of covering the environment
Great Lakes Echo

Among biggest challenges facing environmental reporters are political barriers and danger, according to a recent panel convened by MSU’s Environmental Science and Policy Program. More»

As climate changes, plants might not suck carbon from the air fast enough

Current climate change models might be overestimating how much carbon dioxide plants can suck from the atmosphere. Thanks to molecular research on photosynthesis done at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL), non-MSU atmospheric scientists have factored in lesser understood photosynthetic limitation into their models. These models suggest that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations might increase more rapidly than previously expected. Photosynthesis supports life on Earth. Photosynthetic organisms capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and process it through a series of reactions known as the Calvin-Benson cycle. Specifically, the carbon is used to make triose phosphate, a molecule which eventually turns into sucrose, the energy currency that powers plants and the food chain above them. The process is referred to as TPU, or triose phosphate utilization. But there is a limit to how much carbon plants can use. “When photosynthesis gets too much carbon dioxide, it can’t process it into sugars fast enough,” said Tom Sharkey, University Distinguished Professor at the PRL. “Photosynthesis cannot indefinitely increase its productivity levels. It reaches a ceiling, and more carbon dioxide won’t help.” More»

Michigan State to study communication after Hurrican Maria
The Associate Press

Michigan State University researchers have received a federal grant to study communication after Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico. The East Lansing school says it plans to use the roughly $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to examine how information spread during and after the hurricane that struck last September. Researchers aim to learn why infrastructure failed and how crisis communication was used before, during and after the hurricane. A research team plans to convene focus groups and interview reporters and residents. They also will map areas still lacking electricity. More»

GMOs: A surrogate for the debate about agriculture?

Public concern over genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is often associated with questions over their possible effects on human health and their environmental implications. However, perceptions of the agricultural and food industries, trends in higher education, questions around how research is funded, political leanings and socioeconomic factors can also play a part. Paul Thompson, holder of the W. K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University (MSU), conducts research on the ethical and philosophical questions associated with agriculture and food. More»

A Few More Bad Apples: As The Climate Changes, Fruit Growing Does, Too
National Public Radio

For 150 years, western Michigan has been the perfect place to grow apples, says Jeff Andresen, professor at Michigan State University and the state climatologist. One reason is that Lake Michigan, to the west, moderates the climate here. More»

Yes, humans are depleting Earth's resources, but "footprint" estimates don't tell the full story
The Conversation

As an ecological economist and scholar of sustainability, I am particularly interested in metrics and indicators that can help us understand human uses of Earth’s ecosystems. Better measurements of the impacts of human activities can help identify ways to sustain both human well-being and natural resources. By Robert Richardson, Professor of Community Sustainability, MSU More»


ESPP affiliated faculty Drs. Vlad Tarabara, Robby Richardson, Michelle Rutty, and Doug Bessette, together with Dr. Grant Gunn, are awarded an Michigan Applied Public Policy Research grant for "Line 5: Oil Spill Detection, Remediation, and Risk Perceptions in Winter Conditions"
Institute for Public Policy and Social Research

Great Lakes Health Line 5: Oil Spill Detection, Remediation, and Risk Perceptions in Winter Conditions The project will examine the social perceptions of and physical risks associated with Line 5, an increasingly contentious oil transport pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. Specifically, this research will (1) provide insight into the public's and decision-makers' perceptions of the risks associated with a Line 5 underwater oil spill via surveys, focus groups, and agent-based modeling, which will be informed by (2) preliminary laboratory experiments that investigate how oil accumulates and spreads beneath ice in the winter season, which has not been previously studied. The findings from this research will have critical implications for identifying best practices and developing spill remediation policy for the State of Michigan. Contact: Grant Gunn, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Environment & Spatial Sciences, College of Social Science, Doug Bessette, Assistant Professor, Community Sustainability Robert Richardson, Associate Professor, Community Sustainability Michelle Rutty, Assistant Professor, Community Sustainability Volodymyr Tarabara, Professor, Environmental Engineering and ESPP More»


ESPP Faculty Dr. Sandy Marquart-Pyatt and ESPP student Riva Denny (Sociology) win a grant to research "Perceptions of Water Quality, Quantity and Access in Michigan"
Institute for Public Policy and Social Research

Perceptions of Water Quality, Quantity and Access in Michigan This research seeks Michigan residents' perception of water quality, quantity and access. Public perception relates to public satisfaction with water management decisions, satisfaction with and trust of drinking water providers, and the eventual success or failure of efforts to address water problems through compliance or opposition. Further, questions about how many of these issues are unique to the state of Michigan and how they might compare with public views in other states facing similar issues provides input to the decision process of policy leaders. Sandra T. Marquart-Pyatt, Professor, Dept. of Sociology, Environmental Science & Policy Program; Riva C. H. Denny, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology More»


ESPP affiliated faculty Drs. Sharlissa Moore and Annick Anctil awarded grant to study "Understanding Public Opinion on Energy Transitions in Michigan"
Institute for Public Policy and Social Research

Energy Transitions Understanding Public Opinion on Energy Transitions in Michigan This research considers opinions more specific to the changes underway in Michigan energy transitions that could influence the integrated resource planning process through the Public Service Commission. The end report focuses on providing input into the Michigan Public Service Commission’s evaluation of utility integrated resource plans and decision-making on renewable energy adoption. Sharlissa Moore, James Madison College, Civil & Environmental Engineering; Annick Anctil, Civil & Environmental Engineering More»


New study focuses on disaster recovery

Scientists, led by doctoral student Hongbo Yang of the ESPP and MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, or CSIS, measured what constituted well-being for the quake’s human victims and found as yet unidentified losses. More»


Climate Change and Food Security
The Republic

Dr. Laura Schmitt Olabisi writes: Given the current challenges to agricultural production in Nigeria, climate change is expected to make the situation even worse. Both higher temperatures and shifting rainfall regimes will lower crop yields compared to what they could be under a stable climate. While scientists aren’t sure exactly how rainfall patterns in West Africa will change over the next century, the region will definitely be hotter, with negative consequences for staple crop production. Climate change can also exacerbate pest and disease outbreaks. There is some evidence that the Fall Armyworm outbreaks seen across Africa in 2017 were made worse because of climate change. More»


A fresh look at fresh water: Researchers create a 50,000-lake database
National Science Foundation

A team of 80 scientists in fields including limnology, ecology, computer science, geographic and information sciences, and other disciplines developed LAGOS. Their recent paper in the journal GigaScience makes the results available to researchers, policymakers and the public. "We're at an exciting time in environmental science, when people are recognizing that the big problems we face require us to work together across disciplinary boundaries and to openly share data, methods and tools," said paper co- author Kendra Cheruvelil, a scientist at Michigan State University (MSU). More»


Yadu Pokhrel to use NSF CAREER Award to advance water resource sustainability and food security
College of Engineering

The clock is ticking on the world’s freshwater supply. Yadu Pokhrel, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University, is concerned that with more than seven billion people on the planet, it is time to rethink how we use and manage freshwater systems.Yadu Pokhrel's NSF project will use the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia as a testbed. The Mekong River Basin is home to 60 million people in six nations and hosts the world’s largest freshwater fishery. Yadu Pokhrel's NSF project will use the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia as a testbed. The Mekong River Basin is home to 60 million people in six nations and hosts the world’s largest freshwater fishery. Pokhrel will use a five-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award to continue his work in water systems management. The grant begins on June 1, 2018. More»


Surprising species helps Lake Michigan E. coli levels
Detroit Free Press

New research out of Michigan State University shows Lake Michigan beach closings have dropped over the past 15 years as E. coli bacteria concentrations have dropped. That time period coincides with the explosion of quagga mussels across the Great Lakes and especially in Lake Michigan. More»


Climate change should help midwest corn production through 2050

Climate change and global warming put some forms of life at risk, but researchers found one instance that might not feel the heat – corn. Contrary to previous analyses, research published by Michigan State University shows that projected changes in temperature and humidity will not lead to greater water use in corn. This means that while changes in temperatures and humidity trend as they have in the past 50 years, crop yields can not only survive – but thrive. “There is a lot of optimism looking at the future for farmers, especially in the Midwest,” said Bruno Basso, lead author of the study and University Distinguished professor. More»

The hidden environmental costs of importing food

A new study has exposed the surprising fact that importing food can be just as damaging to ecological health as exporting food. Domestic farmers are sometimes forced to switch crops in response to the global food market, and this often leads to unforeseen environmental consequences. Study senior author Jianguo “Jack” Liu is the director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University. “What is obvious is not always the whole truth,” said Liu. “Unless a world is examined in a systemic, holistic way, environmental costs will be overlooked.” More»


Dr. Jennifer Carrera Awarded Prestigious NIEHS Grant
Department of Socilogy

Congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Carrera who was recently awarded the prestigious KO1 mentoring grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Dr. Carrera uses water as lens to focus on differential access to environmental resources and its impact on the well-being of individuals in marginalized communities. The grant will be used to work with residents in Flint, Michigan to develop novel, low-cost resources for environmental monitoring with the aims of enhancing self and community-efficacy towards protecting public health. The KO1 mentoring grant will provide the necessary funds to Dr. Carrera for 3 years to investigate her research objective: Engaging Community in the Development of Low Cost Technologies for Environmental Monitoring to Promote Environmental Health Literacy in a Low-Trust Setting. Known as a career transition award, the grant provides support for independent environmental health research and advanced research training while fostering additional experience in environmental health sciences. Dr. Carrera is jointly appointed in the Department of Sociology and the Environmental Science and Policy Program and she is part of the campus-wide Global Water Initiative, which is intended to deepen, enrich, and foster collaboration across MSU’s expansive water scholarship on campus. Anyone interested in learning more about the award should contact Dr. Carrera directly at More»

Conservation Costs Can Be Higher than Bargained For

MSU doctoral candidate Hongbo Yang and his colleagues created a systems approach to look at how farmers in southwestern China’s Wolong Nature Reserve were faring since they started taking payments under two of the country’s PES programs. The Grain-to-Green Program, one of the world’s largest PES programs, was created in 2000 to address the rapid degradation of ecosystems including giant panda habitat. By 2010, around 15 million hectares of farmland were returned to forests or grasslands. The local Grain-to-Bamboo Program, started in 2002, supported growing bamboo on cropland to feed pandas in captivity. More»


MSU uses $3M NASA grant to find better ways to regulate dams
MSU Today

Michigan State University researchers, including ESPP Director Dr. Jinhua Zhao, equipped with $3 million from NASA, will investigate innovative methods to improve dams so that they are less harmful to people and the environment. More»


$2.5M Grant to Help Improve Agricultural Consumption of Water, Energy
MSU Today

Michigan State University scientists are leading a $2.5 million USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to better manage these resources and define more sustainable ways for irrigated agriculture to meet current and future demand for food. MSU scientists contributing to this study include: Annick Anctil, Bruno Basso, Anthony Kendall, Paolo Sabbatini, Jinhua Zhao and Adam Zwickle. “Irrigated agriculture is at the core of the nexus of food, energy and water, or FEW, systems,” said David Hyndman, MSU hydrogeologist and the grant’s lead investigator. “Global change is expected to place additional pressure on these systems as U.S. climate warms and becomes more variable, and demand for food increases due to global population growth and diet shifts.” More»


Streams can be sensors
MSU Today

Scientists at Michigan State University have shown that streams can be key health indicators of a region’s landscape, but the way they’re being monitored can be improved. New research featured in Ecology Letters showcases how streams can be used as sensors to diagnose a watershed’s sensitivity or resiliency to changes in land use practices, including the long-term use of fertilizers. Using streams as sensors ­– specifically, near the headwaters – can allow scientists, land-use managers and farmers to diagnose which watersheds can be more sustainably developed for food production, said Jay Zarnetske, MSU earth and environmental scientist and co-author of the study. More»

NASA grants MSU $1.5 million to study how humans hurt the environment
Great Lakes Echo

What’s tall and puffy but invasive all over? Phragmites, large-stature cattail plants which are taking over Michigan wetlands. The tall reeds steal food, water and sunlight from native species. The phragmites grow in dense clusters making them hard to eradicate and manage. “It’s a matter of these species being pushed out of their native habitat and large format plants aren’t actually growing,” said Michigan State hydrogeologist Dr. David Hyndman. Wetlands provide essential services for an ecosystem, like water filtration, sheltering animals, protection from floods and more. Corrupting such an integral part of the environment can have widespread consequences. The problem is only worsening in part because of Michigan farmers with excessive fertilizer usage. Fertilizers are cheap so farmers can use lots of it to increase crop yields – but all the extra chemicals run-off and affect environments miles away. Thus, exacerbating the phragmite problem. More»


Winning climate strategy demands details
Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

When understanding a country’s climate – especially vast countries like the United States or China – to protect food security, biodiversity and human health, the devil is in the details. Scientists at Michigan State University show that examining the daily minutia of climate, not just temperature, but also sunshine, precipitation and soil moisture simultaneously all over a country gives a better understanding of how variable a land’s climate can be. That information is crucial when countries are setting policies aimed at growing food, protecting water supplies and the environment and stemming disease outbreaks. The findings were reported in this week’s Scientific Reports. “There is much talk about how climate is changing and what should be done about it, but in reality, it is the variabilities – those many changes above and below the norm – that can have a great impact on coupled human and natural systems,” said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, MSU’s Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. “A holistic view of our world gives us the most useful information.” More»


Steve Hamilton named inaugural society for freshwater science fellow

Stephen Hamilton, Michigan State University professor of ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry was named an inaugural fellow of the Society for Freshwater Science. More»


Our Freshwater Lakes are Getting Saltier

North America's freshwater lakes are getting saltier due to growing development and exposure to road salt, according to a new, large-scale study involving Michigan State University. The study, published in PNAS, is the first to evaluate 371 lakes and show that many Midwestern and Northeastern lakes are experiencing increasing chloride trends, with about 44 percent of the lakes sampled in these regions experiencing long-term salinization. Nicholas Skaff, an MSU doctoral student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Environmental Science and Policy Program, is one of 15 researchers who co-authored the study as part of the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network, or GLEON, Fellowship Program. More»


Report details accomplishments of U.S. Global Change Research Program
Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

Understanding how the Earth is changing, and how that change affects people, has advanced substantially thanks to investments by the federal government. That is the conclusion of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report issued this week, that includes the input of a Michigan State University (MSU) scholar. Tom Dietz, MSU professor of sociology and environmental science and policy, joined other experts to review work on climate by federal agencies over the last 25 years. The review examined efforts to develop Earth-observing systems, improve Earth-system modeling capabilities, and advanceunderstanding of carbon-cycle processes. The work was done as part of the the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). “It was very useful to look across a quarter of century of research investments,” Dietz said. “We could see how the program both continued to make basic contributions, especially in building data bases that are essential to understanding our changing planet. We could also see the pipeline that led from fundamental research to providing useful information to decision makers coping with real world problems. “The program is also a nice example of how federal agencies, each with its own mandates from Congress, can also coordinate activities to better and more efficiently serve the public interest. This is a federal program that is giving taxpayers a lot of benefit for every dollar spent.” Going forward, the program should continue to build its knowledge base for informing decision makers and the public about rising global challenges, the report recommends. Created by the Global Change Research Act of 1990, the USGCRP provides coordination of global change research and activities in 13 participating agencies and departments and publishes synthesis and assessment products that present the results of the research agencies. Global change is defined as changes in the Earth's environment, for example relating to the changing climate, land productivity, ocean resources, atmospheric chemistry, and ecological systems — all of which can alter its capacity to sustain life. The Academies' report identifies important contributions and achievements of the program since its inception in 1990. One of the first priorities for the program was to address the need for a global observational system. Twenty-five years later, there is now a large and growing portfolio of global measurements from space, guided by the USGRCP’s Integrated Observations Interagency Working Group, which coordinates observation capabilities and research within member agencies. The report also notes the program’s accomplishments in making scientific knowledge more useful to decision makers. For example, the program has documented substantial increases in heavy downpours in most regions of the United States over the past 50 years, which can cause flooding that overwhelms the existing infrastructure of sewers and roads. This knowledge has led to the development of tools such as maps of risks for coastal flooding and other extreme hydrological events to inform local planning, zoning, and emergency preparedness. Dietz said that while the report doesn’t focus on Michigan, the research program has been beneficial to Michigan. MSU co-hosts with University of Michigan, The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment Center (GLISA), with support from Michigan AgBioResearch, MSU’s Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and the Center for Global Change and Earth Observation. GLISA has worked with Michigan cherry growers to help them cope with the changing patterns of spring frosts; with the Michigan Department of Health to help cities plan for extreme heat events of the sort that killed over 500 people in Chicago in 1995; with marina owners who have to cope with fluctuating lake levels, with the Menomonee of northern Michigan in managing their natural resources and with many other groups around the state who are adapting to climate change and variable. In the face of increasing impacts from climate change and other global changes, the report recommends that the USGCRP build on its accomplishments by sustaining, expanding, and coordinating observations of the Earth system and maintaining a balanced program of discovery-driven and use-inspired research to support the needs of the nation at local, regional, national, and global scales. Dietz is a member of MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability and the university’s Environmental Science and Policy Program. More»

MSU 'rethinks' hydropower with $2.6M National Science Foundation grant
MSU Today

An interdisciplinary team of Michigan State University scientists will use a $2.6 million National Science Foundation grant to investigate new ways of producing hydropower, increasing food production and lessening the environmental damage caused by dams. More»

MSU to use $14.7 million USDA grant to advance a fruit-tree canopy delivery system
MSU Today

Matthew Grieshop, an entomologist and organic pest management expert at MSU, leads the project, which originated through a SCRI grant in 2012. The team includes scientists from MSU and Washington State University, as well as private consultants from the spray technology and irrigation industries. More»


Jinhua Zhao: For the common good
MSU Today

As director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program at Michigan State since 2010, I believe the secret to our success has been, simply put, flexibility and inclusivity. ESPP has stated from the beginning that its goal is to be structured as a flexible and inclusive umbrella for environmental research and graduate education, and we work very hard to stay true to that goal. Our team is proud of its efforts to increase the diversity of the student body, faculty and research areas at MSU. Since its inception in 2003, ESPP has embraced the precept that finding common ground through different perspectives is the optimal way to overcome challenges. The basis of interdisciplinary scholarship is bringing diverse experiences and viewpoints together for a greater good. In our yearly Doctoral Recruitment Fellowship awards, ESPP regularly recruits MSU students from a wide variety of nations, background, genders and experiences. One shining example is Judith Namanya, a young woman from Uganda who was inspired by the gender inequities in her home village. Judith studied the ways environmental challenges affect sexes differently. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree with Amber Pearson in the Department of Geography. ESPP has also worked to bring an array of talented educators to MSU. Our most recent hires include researchers working with indigenous rights in Mexico, accessibility of drinking water in New Zealand and sanitation struggles in Detroit. Our events have become a showcase for diversity in scholarship. This past fall, our annual Research Symposium focused on international environmental research, allowing students to share their research from every corner of the globe, from farmers in Ghana to wastewater in Singapore and clean energy in rural Central America. And the Distinguished Lecture Series, now in its fourth generation, focuses on providing our community access to the best researchers in environmental policy and science from across the globe. Past Lecturers have included Jintao Xu, a professor of natural resource economics at Peking University, who is working to tackle the challenges of climate change in China. The signature event for ESPP is the Fate of the Earth symposium. In 2015, our poster competition brought some of the brightest high school students in the region together with top global researchers, advocates, scholars and journalists. At ESPP, we are always seeking ways to increase the opportunities for the most under-represented voices to be heard. We look for unique ways to involve unique voices, and there are many opportunities within our program for individuals interested in environmental research. More»


China's environmental investments show people and nature can win

China’s massive investment to mitigate the ecosystem bust that has come in the wake of the nation’s economic boom is paying off. An international group of scientists finds both humans and nature can thrive – with careful attention. The group, including scientists who have done research at Michigan State University, report on China’s first systematic national accounting of how the nation’s food production, carbon sequestration, soil and water retention, sandstorm prevention, flood mitigation and biodiversity are doing, and what trends have emerged. The work, which spans from 2000-2010, appears in this week’s edition of Science Magazine. More»


Jessica Bell Rizzolo: Preventing Elephant Abuse
MSU Today

Elephant riding is a popular tourist attraction in India and Thailand, but it comes at a cost for the animals. Understanding and preventing the abuse elephants suffer to satisfy tourists is the goal of MSU student Jessica Bell Rizzolo. Bell Rizzolo, who is working toward her Ph.D. in sociology, specializes in animal studies, environmental science and policy, and conservation criminology. She is researching the effects and trauma elephants experience to fill the needs of tourists. “In Thailand it is very common for the baby elephants to be separated from their mothers quite young and then to go through all these other traumas, such as dominance-based training, inadequate food or water, and the prohibition of natural behaviors,” said Bell Rizzolo, who completed her Bachelor of Science in education and social policy and Master of Arts in psychology at Northwestern University, as well as training in trans-species psychology with Gay Bradshaw, the foremost expert on PTSD in elephants. More»


Giant Pandas and Humans: A Lesson in Sustainability

Jianguo "Jack" Liu, who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability,has been working to better understand those relationships at Wolong since 1996. Liu, whose expertise fuses ecology and social sciences, has long viewed the reserve as an excellent laboratory because its truths have proven universal: Honor the needs of both people and nature — and acknowledge the dynamic, complex nature of that relationship — and sustainability is possible. Liu, along with other scholars in the field of sustainability from MSU and around the world, are applying the lessons they learned in Wolong to global challenges rooted in land use, trade, habitat conservation and resource and ecosystem service management. The researchers are bringing to bear the viewpoints of many disciplines — from ecology, plant and wildlife sciences to social, economic and behavioral sciences. The researchers, who are an international group of students, former students and collaborators, share Liu's holistic view of a world in which the fate of humans and nature are firmly entwined. They have published "Pandas and People: Coupling Human and Natural Systems for Sustainability" (Oxford University Press, 2016). The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA. - See more at: More»


Fertilizer use could reduce climate benefit of cellulosic biofuels
MSU Today

According to a new study from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and Michigan State University, the use of nitrogen fertilizer on switchgrass crops can produce a sharp increase in emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas up to 300 times more harmful than carbon dioxide and a significant driver of global climate change. Switchgrass is one of several crops poised to become a feedstock for the production of “cellulosic biofuels,” fuels derived from grasses, wood or the nonfood portion of plants. Though touted for being a clean energy alternative to both fossil fuels and corn ethanol, cellulosic biofuel comes with its share of complexities. Many of its environmental benefit depends, for starters, on how its crops are grown. “We’ve established that the climate benefit of cellulosic biofuels is much greater and much more robust than people originally thought,” said Phil Robertson, University Distinguished Professor of Ecosystem Science at MSU and coauthor. “But what we’re also seeing is that much of that climate benefit is dependent. It’s dependent on factors such as land use history and – as we’re seeing with these results – it’s dependent on nitrogen fertilizer use.” Led by former MSU graduate student Leilei Ruan and published this week in Environmental Research Letters, the study reports nitrous oxide emissions from switchgrass grown at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station when fertilized at eight different levels. More»


ESPP student research on campus water consumption wins award
MSU Office of Sustainability

At Michigan State University, plastic water bottles account for a large amount of campus waste, yet it is estimated that only 25 percent of the nearly three million water bottles on campus make their way to MSU's Recycling Center each year. To better understand water consumption and uncover areas for improvement, graduate students Cheng-Hua Liu, Melissa Rojas-Downing and Zhenci Xu partnered with MSU Sustainability to conduct a research survey that measured water usage and preference of the MSU community. More»


ESPP affiliated faculty Dr. Bruno Basso receives the 2016 Innovation of the Year award
MSU Research

Michigan State University’s intellectual property office, MSU Technologies, selected Bruno Basso‘s work for the Innovation of the Year Award for 2016. Basso, professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, received the award for his system of cropland evaluation and crop growth management. He uses an interdisciplinary approach to study agricultural systems and improve decision-making across a broad spectrum of stakeholders, from the smallholder farmer in the developing world to the industrial producer and policymaker. More»


Antibiotic Resistance Shows Up in Animals, Manure
National Geographic

In one study, published in April in the journal mBio, Timothy Johnson and James Tiedje of Michigan State University, along with collaborators at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, analyzed soil from very large modern hog farms in three regions of China. They found identical clusters of genes that confer resistance, and mobile genetic elements—short strings of genetic material containing multiple genes—even in widely spread out farm properties. More»


Sexy ideas won't slow climate change if people don't buy in and buy them

As governments and researchers race to develop policies and technologies to make energy production more sustainable and mitigate climate change, they need to remember that the most-sophisticated endeavors won’t work if they’re not adopted. That’s the viewpoint of Thomas Dietz, Michigan State University professor of sociology and environmental science and policy, and co-editors in their introduction to a new collection of papers on addressing the linked problems of energy sustainability and climate change jointly published by the journals Nature Energy and Nature Climate Change. More»


The Dirt on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

New research in the current issue of Nature, describes how changes in land-use practices can help reduce the levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane in the atmosphere. Agricultural soils in particular can be made to capture even more greenhouse gases than they emit, making them not just climate neutral but “net mitigating,” said Phil Robertson, University Distinguished Professor of plant, soil and microbial sciences and director of MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station Long-Term Ecological Research program. "We know from research that game-changing technology is available to do this, but farmers are rational beings and their first priority is paying bills, not climate mitigation," said Robertson, who was a co-author on the study. "Farmers don’t change their cropping practices to favor greenhouse gas mitigation because it could generally cost more in terms of labor, equipment and soil management time." More»


What's nature worth? Study puts a price on groundwater and other natural capital
College of Natural Science

A multi-institution research team, including MSU geological sciences graduate student Erin Haacker, has adapted traditional asset valuation approaches to measure the value of such natural capital assets, linking economic measurements of ecosystem services with models of natural dynamics and human behavior. In a paper published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group of scholars demonstrate how to price natural capital using the example of the Kansas High Plains’ Aquifer — a critical natural resource that supports the region’s agriculture-based economy. According to their analysis, groundwater extraction and changes in aquifer management policies—driven largely by subsidizes and new technology—reduced the state’s total wealth held in groundwater by $110 million per year between 1996 and 2005. That’s a total of $1.1 billion. More»


Emilio Moran leading global initiative on food security and land use

MSU’s principal investigator is Emilio Moran, the Hannah Distinguished Professor of Global Change Science, a renowned social scientist and member of the National Academy of Sciences. Moran was MSU’s driving force earlier this year to bring Brazilian scientific organizations into a formal relationship with MSU. That declared partnership, he said, helped pave the way this proposal. “The Belmont Forum is the future’s mechanism for funding global change,” Moran said. “For the last 20 years, each country has had good programs, but there has never been an obvious mechanism to do globally scaled research. Nobody gets to first base with More»

ESPP Announces New Summer Research Fellowship for Students Studying Climate, Food, Water and Energy

ESPP announces the Climate, Food, Energy, and Water (C-FEW) Research Fellowship for the Summer of 2016 for Ph.D. students currently enrolled at MSU. The goal of the program is to provide funding to Ph.D. students to support the next generation of scientists and to advance work in climate, food, energy, and water at Michigan State University. The C-FEW Summer Fellowship provides funds to be used to enhance the educational and research experience of graduate students at MSU whose research focuses on the nexus of climate, food, energy and water. Recipients of the Fellowship will be expected to actively engage in C-FEW research during the summer of 2016, organize an ESPP colloquium during Fall 2016, and write a short paper about their work for ESPPulse, a semiannual series published by ESPP. More»


This is why sowing doubt about climate change is such an effective strategy
The Washington Post

“The positive frames really don’t move the needle at all, and the presence of the denial counter-frame seems to have a suppressive or a negative effect on people’s climate change belief,” says Aaron McCright, a researcher at Michigan State University who conducted the research with three university colleagues. The study is just out in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science. More»


Climate-change foes winning public opinion war
MSU Today

As world leaders meet this week and next at a historic climate change summit in Paris, a new study by Michigan State University environmental scientists suggests opponents of climate change appear to be winning the war of words. The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, finds that climate-change advocates are largely failing to influence public opinion. Climate-change foes, on the other hand, are successfully changing people’s minds – Republicans and Democrats alike – with messages denying the existence of global warming. “This is the first experiment of its kind to examine the influence of the denial messages on American adults,” said Aaron M. McCright, a sociologist and lead investigator on the study. “Until now, most people just assumed climate change deniers were having an influence on public opinion. Our experiment confirms this.” More»


four MSU scientists named AAAS Fellows
MSU Today

Phil Robertson, director of MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research Program. For distinguished contributions in ecosystem science and production agriculture with emphasis on nitrogen cycling, greenhouse gas production and environmental assessment of biofuel cropping systems. AAAS named 347 new fellows and will honor them More»


MSU holds forum on Flint water

It's well beyond just the talk of the town. It's the reason behind protests and the subject of mayoral debates, conversations in Lansing and now, hearings in Washington. But ask a college student 50 miles away about Flint's water emergency and a lot of them will say they haven't heard about it. That's a big reason why several departments at Michigan State came together to host a forum, Wednesday night, bringing in five panelists to discuss the city's drinking water issues. "It's important for students, it's important for people to understand the issues involving water," said Susan Masten, one of three MSU professors on the panel. Masten, a civil and environmental engineering professor, presented a timeline of the water emergency. She says Flint is the big topic of discussion in her classes. More»

ESPP affiliated faculty on cyanobacteria in The Washington Post
The Washington Post

Dr. Elena Litchman, professor of aquatic ecology at MSU and an ESPP affiliated facultymember, discusses the behavior of cyanobacteria with The Washington Post. More»


Great Lakes' Viral Invaders

Viral invasions would make for a good plot in the next Spielberg blockbuster, but according to Michigan State University water researchers, it’s not a Hollywood fantasy. In fact, millions of tiny, dangerous microbes have been attacking native species in the Great Lakes for decades. These pathogens are hitching rides in ballast water – the water in the hulls of large ships that help stabilize them when on the move – which is then released into new environments when the ships dock at their destinations, according to Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair in Water Research at MSU. More»


Septic tanks aren't keeping poo out of rivers and lakes
MSU Today

The notion that septic tanks prevent fecal bacteria from seeping into rivers and lakes simply doesn’t hold water, says a new Michigan State University study. Water expert Joan Rose and her team of water detectives have discovered freshwater contamination stemming from septic systems. Appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is the largest watershed study of its kind to date, and provides a basis for evaluating water quality and health implications and the impact of septic systems on watersheds. More»


New MSU Center tackles antibiotic resistance
MSU Today

The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year in the U.S. alone, 23,000 people die from resistant infections. Researchers at the Michigan State University Center for the Health Impacts of Agriculture are on a mission to find strategies to deal with the impending global threat of antibiotic resistance. “We are pleased to announce the first research project to be funded by the Center for the Health Impacts of Agriculture,” said Felicia Wu, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor and CHIA Co-director. “The study will target antibiotics used in animal agriculture to find out how they find their way into the environment and what the ultimate impact on humans, if any, might be.” Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria are able to acquire and develop resistance to the antibiotics that are used to fight them. The largest volume of antibiotic use today is in animal agriculture, and researchers plan to analyze soil and water samples from the environment to see if this use of antibiotics is having an effect. More»


Perennial biofuel crops' water consumption similar to corn

Dr. Stephen Hamilton’s team reports that the perennial system’s evapotranspiration did not differ greatly from corn – a finding that contrasts sharply with earlier studies that found particularly high perennial water use in areas with high water tables. Hamilton’s study, however, took place in Michigan’s temperate humid climate and on the kind of well-drained soil characteristic of marginal farming land. More»


MSU professor to serve as founding editor for science journal
MSU Today

MSU professor Patricia Soranno was named founding editor-in-chief of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography’s new journal, Limnology and Oceanography Letters. “Pat Soranno’s innovative ideas about publishing and research excellence make her a fantastic choice to be the founding editor of ASLO’s newest journal,” said Jim Elser, ASLO president. A professor in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Soranno has spent the past 20 years conducting research that integrates freshwater ecosystems into a landscape perspective from local to continental scales. More»

Quenching the thirst fore clean, safe water
MSU Today

It is estimated that one in nine people globally lack access to safe water. Michigan State University researchers are looking to fill that critical need and provide safe drinking water to the most remote locations in the world with a new foam water filter that significantly reduces dangerous pathogens in drinking water. “The foam filter is the first of its kind to address a wide range of the biological and economic factors that hinder development of remote water filtration systems,” said Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in water research and author of the study. “This filter is easier to use and more effective than traditional methods.” More»


Spreading the Seeds of Big Data
MSU Today

Michigan State University is spreading the seeds of big data to improve agricultural practices around the United States. Through a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, MSU will lead a team of scientists to develop big-data approaches to better manage water and fertilizers and to adapt to changes brought on by climate variability. “Our research shows the interactions between soil, crop, climate, hydrology and agricultural management, and determines their effects on crop yield and the environment,” said Bruno Basso, MSU ecosystems scientist. “This project links science with technology and big data analytics; we aim to help farmers better adapt to temperature extremes, droughts or excess water in fields so that they can make better decisions for the environment and maximize production and/or profits.” More»


Understanding of world's freshwater fish, fishing too shallow
MSU Today

In this month’s journal Global Food Security,scientists note that competition for freshwater is ratcheting up all over the world for municipal use, hydropower, industry, commercial development and irrigation. Rivers are being dammed and rerouted, lakes and wetlands are being drained, fish habitats are being altered, nutrients are being lost, and inland waters throughout the world are changing in ways, big and small, that affect fish. More»


Kaminski named interim director for MSU's Center for Research on Ingredient Safety
MSU Today

Norbert Kaminski, director of Michigan State University’s Center for Integrative Toxicology, was recently named interim director for the university’s new Center for Research on Ingredient Safety. Kaminski, who is also professor of pharmacology and toxicology and a faculty member in MSU’s Cell and Molecular Biology Program, will continue as director of the Center for Integrated Toxicology until a permanent director is appointed for the ingredient safety center. More»


Boosting Armor for Nuclear-Waste Eating Microbes
MSU Today

A microbe developed to clean up nuclear waste and patented by a Michigan State University researcher has just been improved. In earlier research, Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist, identified that Geobacter bacteria’s tiny conductive hair-like appendages, or pili, did the yeoman’s share of remediation. By increasing the strength of the pili nanowires, she improved their ability to clean up uranium and other toxic wastes. In new research, published in the current issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Reguera has added an additional layer of armor to her enhanced microbes. More»


How drones could limit fertilizer flow into Lake Erie
PBS NewsHour

Dr. Bruno Basso's research using drones to help farmers apply fertilizers is featured on PBS NewsHour More»


MSU Researcher to build national microbial risk assessment training program
MSU Today

MSU AgBioResearch biosystems engineer Jade Mitchell has received a nearly $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop and provide quantitative microbial risk assessment tools, models and training to university researchers around the nation. One of the goals of the program is to link quantitative scientists such as engineers to biologists and social scientists. More»


Addressing the effect of agriculture on global health
MSU Today

Michigan State University has launched the first-of-its-kind center to research and address the growing global effects of agriculture on human and animal health. The Center for Health Impacts of Agriculture links MSU’s renowned agriculture and food security research with its three colleges of medicine – the College of Human Medicine, College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Veterinary Medicine – to address growing global health concerns with agriculture, including: Antimicrobial resistance in humans, animals and plants, and the implications on human health Agricultural development and economic effects related to increased cases of malaria in Malawi, Africa Health risk assessment and nutrient regulation policies, including assessment of carcinogen levels in current health policy Felicia Wu, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor leads the new center. Wu’s research, at the crossroads of human health and agricultural practices and policies, inspired her to develop the interdisciplinary research center. More»


MSU helps shape USDA greenhouse gas policy

Michigan State University researchers contributed to shaping the USDA’s report. They include: Phil Robertson, director of MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station’s Long-term Ecological Research Program and professor of plant, soil, and microbial sciences; Wendy Powers-Schilling, professor of animal science; and David Skole, professor of forestry. More»


Empowering the next generation of fisheries professionals
MSU Today

Michigan State University’s Bill Taylor has received numerous awards and honors befitting an internationally recognized expert in Great Lakes fisheries ecology with a 35-plus-year career full of researcher discoveries and professional service. - See more at: More»


CSIS member contributes to land change synthesis paper

Much of what we know about how humans use land, and how those practices change over time, is informed by local case studies. But determining whether individual case studies are merely anecdotal—or if they can be scaled up to help explain regional or even global land use patterns—can be a challenge. To reconcile local information with regional–global knowledge, researchers who study land change must also reconcile the diversity of disciplines involved in land change science. From urban economics to geophysics and ecology to geography, each brings with it disparate data types and research questions. The research approach of synthesis—which “draws upon and distills many sources of data, ideas, explanations, and methods in order to accelerate knowledge production beyond that of less integrative approaches”—is especially useful in this context. “People who study land use change are often dealing with both quantitative and qualitative data, due to the human component of the field,” said Nicholas Magliocca, computational research associate at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). “If you’re trying to integrate, for example, satellite remote sensing imagery with farmer surveys, your synthesis techniques will necessarily vary from those used for highly-controlled and standardized field experiments.” More»


Of Fish, Monsoons and the Future
The New York Times

“The central message of Chans is that humans and nature are coupled, just like husband and wife,” says Dr. Liu, director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University. “They interact, work together, and the impacts are not just one way. There are feedbacks.” More»


How much fertilizer is too much for the climate?
MSU Today

In a new study published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Michigan State University researchers provide an improved prediction of nitrogen fertilizer’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural fields. The study uses data from around the world to show that emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas produced in the soil following nitrogen addition, rise faster than previously expected when fertilizer rates exceed crop needs. Nitrogen-based fertilizers spur greenhouse gas emissions by stimulating microbes in the soil to produce more nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas, behind only carbon dioxide and methane, and also destroys stratospheric ozone. Agriculture accounts for around 80 percent of human-caused nitrous oxide emissions worldwide, which have increased substantially in recent years, primarily due to increased nitrogen fertilizer use. “Our specific motivation is to learn where to best target agricultural efforts to slow global warming,” said Phil Robertson, director of MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research Program and senior author of the paper. “Agriculture accounts for 8 to 14 percent of all greenhouse gas production globally. We’re showing how farmers can help to reduce this number by applying nitrogen fertilizer more precisely.” More»


New Technology Turns Manure into Clean Water

Imagine something that can turn cow manure into clean water, extract nutrients from that water to serve as fertilizer and help solve the ever-present agricultural problem of manure management. Technology that has its roots firmly planted at Michigan State University is under development and near commercialization that can do all of that. And then some. Known as the McLanahan Nutrient Separation System, it takes an anaerobic digester – a contraption that takes waste, such as manure, and produces energy as a byproduct – and couples it with an ultrafiltration, air stripping and a reverse osmosis system. More»


Michigan's top 3 universities pour $300M into water research over 5 years
The Detroit News

Michigan’s three largest public universities are using the water resources of the state and the Great Lakes region as a tool for research and promoting economic development, according to a report to be unveiled today on Mackinac Island. “The state of Michigan is surrounded by water but within it are scientist researchers who are using very sophisticated techniques to understand health and safety to impact the day-to-day lives of people,” MSU President Lou Anna Simon said by phone as she was preparing to board the ferry to Mackinac Island. “Michigan is an international leader in water and water-based research.” More»


New, Fossil-Fuel-Free Process Makes Biodiesel Sustainable
MSU Today

A new fuel-cell concept, developed by an Michigan State University researcher, will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process. The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist and one of the co-authors. More»


MSU researchers: Ash borer may have arrived in North America in 1990s
The Detroit News

It took several years before the ash borer population grew large enough to kill trees, so the researchers concluded in the study, released Tuesday, the beetle was in the area at least since 1992 or 1993. The insect native to Asia was detected in southeastern Michigan in 2002. “There were probably only a few live beetles that arrived, but ash trees are common in urban landscapes as well as in forests,” Deb McCullough, a professor of forest entomology, said in a statement. “When they emerged, there were likely ash trees nearby, providing food for the beetles and their offspring. More»


Climate Debate Isn't So Heated in the U.S.
The New York Times

Polls have shown that Americans are far less concerned about global warming than people in the rest of the developed world and rarely cite environmental issues when asked to name important problems facing the country. Why is that? Featuring ESPP faculty Dr. Aaron McCright More»


Spartans feed the world

Michigan State University researchers are increasing their presence throughout Africa, Asia, and Central America—key food-producing regions—and are working directly with farmers, policy makers, and government entities to increase agricultural productivity, improve diets, and build greater resilience to challenges like climate change. More»


Gearing Up
MSU Today

One of those researchers is Bruce Dale, MSU University Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering and materials science. Dale is focused on making much larger amounts of ethanol—fuel made from corn grain that accounts for about 10 percent of the gas currently used in cars—from corn stover and other nonfood crop residues and purpose-grown energy crops referred to collectively as “cellulosic biomass.” More»


More to biofuel production than yield
MSU Today

In the current issue of the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, Michigan State University researchers show that looking at the big picture allows other biofuel crops, such as native perennial grasses, to score higher as viable alternatives. “We believe our findings have major implications for bioenergy research and policy,” said Doug Landis, MSU entomologist and one of the paper’s lead authors. “Biomass yield is obviously a key goal, but it appears to come at the expense of many other environmental benefits that society may desire from rural landscapes.” More»


Single gene separates queen from workers

A team of scientists from Michigan State University and Wayne State University unraveled the gene’s inner workings and published the results in the current issue of Biology Letters. The gene, which is responsible for leg and wing development, plays a crucial role in the evolution of bees’ ability to carry pollen. “This gene is critical in making the hind legs of workers distinct so they have the physical features necessary to carry pollen,” said Zachary Huang , MSU entomologist. “Other studies have shed some light on this gene’s role in this realm, but our team examined in great detail how the modifications take place.” More»


Cities weigh options, costs of fighting ash borer

"There's no reason for a landscape tree to die now if someone is willing to put some money into it," said Deb McCullough, a Michigan State University forest entomology professor who helped test the pesticide before it went on the market. "(But) some cities have a tough time allocating money from a municipal budget to protect trees when they're trying to keep firemen and policemen on the job." More»


Study provides comparison of biomass crop growth in the Midwest
Ethanol Producer Magazine

Dennis Pennington, bioenergy educator at Michigan State University Extension, recently reviewed a study on regional biomass feedstocks from the University of Illinois. More»


Telecoupling Shows Global Impact of China's Forestation Efforts
Asian Scientist

As China increases its forests, a Michigan State University (MSU) researcher asks: if a tree doesn’t fall in China, can you hear it elsewhere in the world? In the journal Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, MSU professor Jianguo “Jack” Liu dissects the global impact of China’s struggle to preserve and expand its forests even as its cities and population balloon. More»


EPA Should Retain Ethanol Requirements
Lansing State Journal

Past federal energy legislation, culminating in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), has been very successful in encouraging an expansion in the production of ethanol and biodiesel. Practically all of the ethanol has been derived from corn grain. About half of biodiesel production has been derived from soybean oil, the remainder from recycled restaurant grease, corn oil from distillers’ dried grain (a byproduct of ethanol production), animal fat and other vegetable oils. Ethanol production doubled between 2007 and 2013 from 6.5 billion to 13.2 billion gallons. Biodiesel production increased from 0.5 billion to 1.7 billion gallons. More»


Controlling fire blight without antibiotics in organic apples goal of new USDA project

A team of Michigan State University (MSU) researchers has begun investigating organic methods for controlling fire blight, a devastating apple and pear tree disease. The three-year project, under the direction of MSU AgBioResearch plant pathologist George Sundin, is funded by a $464,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). MSU AgBioResearch scientist Matt Grieshop is also involved in the project. More»


Saving the Great Plains Water Supply
MSU Today

In the current issue of Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Michigan State University scientists are proposing alternatives that will halt and hopefully reverse the unsustainable use of water drawdown in the aquifer. The body of water, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, spans from Texas to South Dakota and drives much of the region’s economy. - See more at: More»


Study identifies obstacles to aquaculture expansion
Great Lakes Echo

Better rules for sustainable fish farms could provide the state with a $1 billion a year industry, according to the Michigan Sea Grant, a coastal conservation research group. More»


Bringing Perennial Grain Crops to Africa
MSU Today

MSU AgBioResearch scientist Sieg Snapp is leading a research project studying the potential benefits of introducing perennial grains to African farms. Snapp has been researching perennial grains in Michigan for six years at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station. Her work will span five African nations – Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia – to test the viability of perennial grain growth across varied African ecosystems. The five nations were identified as “priority countries” by the U.S. Agency for International Development. - See more at: More»


Basso Named 2013 ASA Fellow
MSU Today

Bruno Basso, associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, has been named a 2013 American Society of Agronomy Fellow. Basso was honored with 17 other fellows at the 2013 ASA annual meeting on Nov. 5 in Tampa, Fla. Basso, who also is affiliated with the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, was recognized for his research on crop modeling systems and land use sustainability. He leads the soil initiative for the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project. The project is an international effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve climate, crop and economic modeling by providing communities with cutting-edge technology. Basso received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Naples, Italy, and his Ph.D. from MSU. More»


Discussing Global Food and Water Crisis
MSU Today

The United Nations’ has named 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation. In response to the U.N.’s initiative, Michigan State University has organized a cross-disciplinary, educational conference titled “Water, Food Security and the Developing Global Crisis.” More»


Creating Resilient Communities
MSU Today

The majority of Tanzanians live in rural areas, where their communities face a number of obstacles, including a lack of access to education and to clean water. Now, MSU leaders of the Tanzania Partnership Program are working side by side with universities, foundations, and residents of the villages of Milola and Naitolia to create sustainable solutions that will bring academic and economic opportunities to the African country. - See more at: More»


MSU lands first drone
MSU Today

Farmers can now get a birds-eye view ­of their fields – in full HD – thanks to Michigan State University landing its first drone. MSU researchers are using its first unmanned aerial vehicle to help farmers maximize yields by improving nitrogen and water management and reducing environmental impact such as nitrate leaching or nitrous oxide emissions. For this initiative, MSU’s UAV measures how crops react to stress, such as drought, nutrients deficiency or pests. The drone flies over the field documenting the field’s status ­– down to centimeters. The portrait gives farmers details on the current health of their crops. More»


MSU joins biomaterial contributor network
MSU Today

Michigan State University has joined more than 30 public and private institutions to accelerate biological material distribution to a global research community. The Biomaterial Contributor Network is being coordinated by ATCC, a global biological materials resource and standards organization. As part of the network, the institutions will be able to share materials with the research community, including cell lines, molecular genomics tools, microorganisms and bioproducts. Many participants may receive a share of the revenue from the sale and licensing of materials developed at their institutions. For more information about ATCC, the network and its members, visit For details on MSU’s efforts, please contact Amber Shinn at the MSU Innovation Center, (517) 884-0718, More»


H20 SOS: Why should we be alarmed about water?
MSU Today

Michigan State University scientists are working to ensure the world has clean, healthy water supplies today—and for years to come. Some have dedicated their careers to preserving and protecting this precious commodity. And through the university’s Global Water Initiative, MSU will add 16 new scientists to its team of more than 100 faculty members who conduct water research. More»


Building stronger policies to fight global hunger
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

As part of Feed the Future, the federal government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Michigan State University will use a $10 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to strengthen developing countries’ abilities to fight hunger through improved food policy. More»


MSU Builds Combined Heat and Power System using Anaerobic Digestion
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Michigan State University (MSU) officials will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 13 to officially commission and start operations of the South Campus Anaerobic Digester (SCAD). That same day, MSU and MSU Extension will host Keeping it Green: Recycling Waste to Resources to highlight this and other campus-based projects focused on reducing and reusing organic waste. Participants will tour the SCAD, the University Farms composting facility, Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center (ADREC), MSU Recycling, T.B. Simon Power Plant and the Student Organic Farm. More»


Examining food security in Detroit, Lansing
Great Lakes Echo

Grocery stores have been making the news in Detroit recently. Last week, the Michigan-based retailer, Meijer, opened its first Detroit location. This follows the news last month of the grand opening of the city’s first Whole Foods Market. Based on these stories, one might think Detroiters were only recently introduced to the concept of the grocery store. That’s not true. MSU associate professor of sociology Craig Harris, an expert in the sociology of food, discusses food security in Detroit, as well as here in mid-Michigan. More»


Maize trade disruption could have global ramifications
MSU Today

Disruptions to U.S. exports of maize (corn) could pose food security risks for many U.S. trade partners due to the lack of trade among other producing and importing nations, says a Michigan State University study. The study, featured in the journal Risk Analysis, didn’t primarily focus on plant disease, population growth, climate change or the diversion of corn to nonfood uses such as ethanol. It suggests, however, that significant stresses in these areas could jeopardize food security. This is particularly true in nations like Mexico, Japan and South Korea that have yet to diversify their sources, said Felicia Wu, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and the study’s lead author. More»


Teach climate change to attract science students, Michigan State researchers argue

A new research paper by a team of Michigan State University scientists argues that teaching climate change is the key to attracting more students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics as fields of study. More»


Masters of Fate: ESPP receives new endowment from Sawyer Koch family
University Development

Donald (Don) F. Koch, MSU Professor Emeritus of philosophy, and Barbara J. Sawyer-Koch (’90, M.P.A., Social Science), have established several significant current and planned gift endowment funds, the major gift being titled Fate of the Earth. With their Fate of the Earth Endowment, the Koch’s hope to encourage today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders to understand the critical need for societal changes and take the necessary steps to prevent further destruction of the Earth’s fragile environment. More»


Teaming up to tackle pervasive pollutants
MSU Today

Michigan State University scientists will lead a $14.1 million initiative to better understand how environmental contaminants called dioxins affect human health and to identify new ways of removing them from the environment. The researchers will use a five-year grant from the Superfund Research Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to support multiple studies on the industrial byproducts, which work their way up the food chain to humans, potentially raising the risk of certain cancers and other diseases. “Dioxins are ubiquitous,” said lead researcher Norbert Kaminski, director of MSU’s Center for Integrative Toxicology and a professor of pharmacology and toxicology. “This class of compounds can be detected virtually everywhere in the world, and they can remain in the environment for decades.” - See more at: More»


Telecoupling pulls pieces of sustainability puzzle together
MSU Today

Scientists led by Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Michigan State University’s Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, have built an integrated way to study a world that has become more connected – with faster and more socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances. They say “telecoupling” describes how distance is shrinking and connections are strengthening between nature and humans. - See more at: More»


Research shows planting cover crops protects Michigan's environment

On this week’s Ag Report on Greening of the Great Lakes, Kurt Thelen, professor at Michigan State University in the Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences Department and project leader at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, discusses research on the environmental benefits of planting cover crops. According to Thelen, research shows that planting cover crops provides substantial environmental benefits. The cover crops absorb residual nitrogen after the harvest, protecting groundwater. Cover crops also reduce the risk of erosion and runoff by absorbing the impact of raindrops in the off season. More»


Robert Walker: All roads don't lead to Starbucks
360 Perspective

ESPP Affiliated Faculty member Robert Walker (Geography) discusses how everyday actions and decisions of citizens and governments factor into environmental change. More»


Going wild could improve winged workforce
MSU Today

Every spring in the United States, bees pollinate crops valued at about $14 billion. A Michigan State University professor and a team of scientists are using a five-year, $8.6 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to keep this winged workforce operating efficiently. Almonds, strawberries, apples, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, cucumbers and more depend on bees to help maximize yields. But with wild honey bee populations decimated by varroa mites and other threats, farmers are dependent on beekeepers to deliver managed colonies of honey bees during peak pollination to ensure their flowers are pollinated. More»


Using Science to Address Farm Pollution
MSU Today

Half of the nitrogen-based fertilizer used on U.S. crops seeps into the environment, prompting an interdisciplinary team of Michigan State University scientists to investigate ways to curb pollution. Armed with a $1.46 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation, the team will analyze soil, crop and climate conditions at 75 Midwestern corn farms and conduct surveys and interviews with farmers. More»


Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool can help local planning officials plan for the future
MSU Extension

Michigan is water rich with abundant surface water and groundwater for recreation, drinking, industry and agriculture. Even in the midst of plentiful supplies, there are parts of the state where increasing competition for water, especially groundwater, is currently or will in the future make it harder to extract those resources without impacting other users and the environment. More»


State climatologist: Data suggests warmer than normal summer on the way

Last year, Michigan had an unusually mild winter paired with a heat wave that devastated perennials and industry fruit crops. State of Michigan climatologist and Michigan State University professor of geography Jeff Andresen returns to Greening of the Great Lakes with Kirk Heinze for his annual climate update. More»


Honeybees, other bees put to the test pollinating Michigan blueberries

A recent study by Michigan State University scientists showed that blueberry growers who plant wildflowers near their fields see an increase in their yields. Why? Because the wildflowers supply shelter and food to support bees and other insects that pitch in on the task of pollinating blueberries, a necessary step for berries to form. More»


Pinpointing how nature's benefits link to human well-being
MSU Today

Scientists at Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, in two parallel papers published in this week’s journal PLOS ONE, develop a new integrated approach to measure human dependence on ecosystem services and human well-being so as to promote the understanding of the linkages between them – an important step toward improved understanding, monitoring and management of coupled human and natural systems. More»


Winemakers pressing for new grape varieties
Great Lakes Echo

As wine grape growers prepare for what many hope will be another strong season, some members of the industry also hope that this year’s crop will reflect innovation. Experiments with new grape varieties have been underway since 2007 at Michigan State University’s Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Traverse City. This year, some growers expect to see the first production of wines from at least two varieties of red grapes that are new to the state — teroldego and lagrein. More»


Pinpointing how nature's benefits link to human well-being
E! Science News

What people take from nature -- water, food, timber, inspiration, relaxation -- are so abundant, it seems self-evident. Until you try to measure how and to what extent they contribute to humans. Scientists at Michigan State University's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, in two parallel papers published in this week's journal PLOS ONE, develop a new integrated approach to measure human dependence on ecosystem services and human well-being so as to promote the understanding of the linkages between them -- an important step toward improved understanding, monitoring and management of coupled human and natural systems. More»


Seeing the forest for the trees
MSU Today

Brazil’s struggle to conserve its rainforests has become a global talking point. As more and more forests have been cleared in the name of economic growth, preserving them has become less attractive to landowners. But a new focus on integrating the social and natural sciences to address environmental problems is yielding promising results that may save the rainforests—and the planet. More»


The politics of saving energy vs. saving the planet
MSU Today

Buying an energy-efficient appliance or light bulb can seem like a green act and a good idea. But that depends on if the buyer is red or blue. Thomas Dietz of the Michigan State University Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability and colleagues muse on the complexities consumers exhibit when deciding whether or not to put their money where their carbon footprint is. More»


Unraveling the Napo's mystery
MSU Today

In the United States, rivers and their floodplains are well-documented and monitored. Ecuador’s largest river, however, remains largely mysterious. Research led by Michigan State University is helping the South American country unravel the Napo River’s mystique to better balance its economic and environmental treasures. The Napo River is about 670 miles long. It winds through the western Amazon basin in Ecuador and Peru, one of the most remote and biodiverse regions in the world, and provides access to valuable oil reserves. More»


Stink bug threatens Michigan crops
Detroit Free Press

Michigan State University entomology professor Matthew Grieshop said the stink bug’s spread into more of the state’s 83 counties is inevitable. “We are in the early invasion stage,” he said. Grieshop said 2010 crop damage by the brown marmorated stink bug in the nation’s mid-Atlantic region was horrific. “There were hundreds of growers who had double-dig More»


Michigan Apple Orchards Blossom After A Devastating Year
National Public Radio's Morning Edition

Last year, almost the entire Michigan apple crop was lost because of 80-degree days in March and then some freezing April nights. This year, the apples are back, but everything always depends on the weather. The state was under a freeze warning Sunday night — a scary prospect if you're an apple grower and your trees have just come into bloom. Every Wednesday morning during apple season, growers show up at a local restaurant at 7 a.m. for a free breakfast (paid for by one of the farm chemical companies) and a briefing from Amy Irish-Brown, an extension educator from Michigan State University. She talks about spores, beetles, aphids and especially the weather. More»


Thousands of failed septic tanks across the state threaten Michigan's waters
Bridge Magazine

Failed septic systems are a concern because human sewage is loaded with pathogens that can threaten the health of people who swim in polluted waters or drink contaminated well water. Several experts interviewed by Bridge said water pollution from failed septic systems is a serious, but under-appreciated, problem across Michigan. “It’s affecting our groundwater and surface waters,” said Joan Rose, a water quality expert who holds the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at Michigan State University. More»


Stink bug invasion set to strike Michigan
The Huffington Post

Spring is finally here! That’s the good news. Now here’s the bad: Michigan is starting to see the beginning of a stink bug infestation, according to Michigan State University entomologist Matt Grieshop. Grieshop says the “Brown Marmolated” — or Asian stink bug is showing up all over the state. The bug is Asian in origin and was first reported in the United States when it was discovered in Pennsylvania in 1996. More»


Modified mosquitoes may halt spread of malaria: study

Mosquitoes infected with a type of bacteria may be used to stop the spread of malaria as they show signs of resistance to the parasite that causes the disease, according to a new study published online in the U.S. journal Science. The mosquitoes infected with the bacterium called Wolbachia, which is naturally found in up to 70 percent of insects, also have the ability to pass the bacterium to their offsprings, researchers from U.S. Michigan State University (MSU) and China's Sun Yat-Sen University reported Thursday. "In a sense, Wolbachia acts as a vaccine of sorts for mosquitoes that could protect them from malaria parasites," said Zhiyong Xi, MSU assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics who leads the study. "Our study shows that in the future it's possible the entire mosquito population will lose the ability to transmit malaria to humans." In their study, the researchers focused on Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes, the primary malaria carrier in the Middle East and South Asia, and found the key to the malaria research was identifying the correct species of Wolbachia -- wAlbB -- and then injecting it into mosquito embryos. More»


Costa Rican and MSU officials help dedicate new anaerobic digester
MSU Today

Many dignitaries from the United States and Costa Rica gathered in the Central American country this week to officially commission a newly built anaerobic digester, the product of a partnership between Michigan State University and the University of Costa Rica. An anaerobic digester takes organic waste – anything from food scraps to animal manure – and turns it into energy. The project was funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Division of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Partners included the University of Costa Rica, Nicaragua’s Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua León, and Panama’s Universidad Autonoma de Chiriqui. More»


ESPP Student Bonnie McGill wins a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
Kellogg Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research

The earth and our society face such “gi-normous” problems like climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, food security—what can a little person like me do about it? More»


EPA: Tar sands pipelines should be held to different standards
National Public Radio's All Things Considered

Michigan State University professor Stephen Hamilton thinks more regulation is needed because of the many ways that a tar sands spill can be more harmful to the environment and people than a conventional oil spill. Another example he cited is that tar sands oil is a lot stickier than conventional crude, so everything it touches, even rocks, cannot be cleaned and needs to be thrown away. "The consequences and the costs of the cleanup, once it gets into surface water systems as we've seen in the case of the Kalamazoo River, are incredibly high," he says. "And, you know, we'll never get it all out." More»


MSU Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies to become Department of Community Sustainability
MSU Today

As of July 1, the Michigan State University Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies will become the Department of Community Sustainability. “The change will better capture the essence of the department’s goals and create a framework for its teaching, research and outreach programs for now and the future,” said Fred Poston, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The multidisciplinary department is revising its undergraduate majors to feature three majors focusing on environmental studies and sustainability; sustainable parks, recreation and tourism; and agriculture, food and natural resource education. “As part of its evolution and increased More»


Red Cedar River at MSU to be stocked with steelhead to enhance fishing on campus
Royal Oak Daily Tribune

The Department of Natural Resources announced Monday that approximately 3,000 steelhead were stocked this morning in the Red Cedar River at Michigan State University. More»


MSU students' projects helps urban garden grow in Detroit
Detroit Free Press

Michigan State University seniors Annie Melcher and Derell Griffin have been working with residents in the Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood for more than a year, helping residents maintain an urban garden. On Sunday, Melcher, 21, and Griffin, 22, joined about 40 other Michigan State students to complete a water-catchment system that will provide a cost-effective, sustainable and eco-friendly way of watering the garden where neighborhood youthslearn to grow and harvest vegetables. More»


New rural water quality protection guidebook prepared by Michigan State University
MSU Extension

The Planning and Zoning Center at Michigan State University, a part of the Land Policy Institute, has developed a new planning and zoning guidebook for use by local government officials in rural parts of Michigan. More»


Is plastic better than pulp containers for nursery plants?
MSU Extension

Recent research conducted by Michigan State University Extension specialist Tom Fernandez from the MSU Department of Horticulture evaluated the possibility that pulp-based containers could be a replacement for plastic nursery pots. He is part of a team of researchers from the states of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Texas that have been working on a USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative project to evaluate the alternative pot options. There is quite a bit of concern over the adaption of pulp-based containers regarding whether they can stand up to the production and shipping rigors in a nursery. We know that the market demand for a more sustainable container is increasing by the end consumer. More»


Bioenergy program receives $125 million renewal grant
The State News

Students and faculty conducting research in the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, or GLBRC will be able to continue research after receiving a $125 million renewal grant for the next five years from the U.S. Department of Energy. Since the program started in 2007, Ken Keegstra has seen the research in bioenergy grow tremendously. “I think it’s a great opportunity for students,” said Keegstra, scientific director for GLBRC at MSU and professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Department of Plant Biology. “It’s a great opportunity for training students both at the undergraduate and graduate level.” More»


Everyone goes green with sustainability
The State News

For students who attended the U.S. Green Building Council Students Regional Conference this weekend, “Go Green” was more than just a cheer for the university’s colors. The U.S. Green Building Council, or USGBC, student group at MSU hosted more than 60 students and professionals interested in sustainability on campus for the region’s first conference. Participants watched movies about sustainable topics Friday, listened to speakers Saturday and took a tour of MSU’s sustainable efforts on campus Sunday. Students learned new ideas for sustainable practices and leadership skills to bring back to their own campus. More»


MSU's new $2.4M fund will develop high-value products from bio-based feedstocks
MSU Today

Thanks to a $1.09 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, plus matching funds from Michigan State University, several bio-based MSU research projects will be fast-tracked for commercial development over the next three years. MSU recently received the funding from the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization program as part of a state-wide initiative to invest in research areas that have shown promise in the laboratory, but need further development in order to become successful in a competitive market. More»


$2.4M fund to develop products from bio-based feedstocks
MSU Research

Thanks to a $1.09 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, plus matching funds from Michigan State University (MSU), several bio-based MSU research projects will be fast-tracked for commercial development over the next three years. MSU recently received the funding from the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (“M-TRAC”) program as part of a state-wide initiative to invest in research areas that have shown promise in the laboratory, but need further development in order to become successful in a competitive market. With MSU’s matching funds, a total of $2.44 million will be focused on MSU biotechnology and bioprocessing innovations that have the potential to create superior value-added products and materials from agricultural-based feedstocks, such as: More»


DOE renews funding for biofuels research partnership
MSU Today

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the University of Wisconsin and Michigan State University $125 million to continue their work on advanced biofuels. The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, housed at UW-Madison and includes a major partnership with MSU, will use the five-year grant to continue its work providing the basic scientific foundation for the sustainable, large-scale production of advanced cellulosic biofuels technologies to help meet the nation’s growing energy needs. “GLBRC researchers, in partnership with the state of Wisconsin, the state of Michigan and affiliated industries, have made substantial progress toward developing the next generation of advanced biofuels,” said Tim Donohue, GLBRC director and UW-Madison professor of bacteriology. “Renewal by the Department of Energy permits us to build on these scientific breakthroughs and accelerate our efforts to develop sustainable biofuels strategies, from growing plants for use as energy feedstocks to exploring novel ways to convert the non-edible components of plants into fuels for the automotive, diesel and aviation sector,” he said. Rather than focus its effort on designing an ideal biomass crop or a single conversion platform, the GLBRC is taking a holistic “field to fuel approach,” that evaluates the energy efficiency, sustainability and economic viability of several technologies. “This approach allows farmers or fuel producers in different parts of the country to select the pieces of our technology that work best for their crops, climate or fuels,” said Ken Keegstra, GLBRC scientific director and MSU Distinguished Professor of plant biology and of biochemistry and molecular biology. More»


MSU Students to adminstration: Divest in big oil
Lansing City Pulse

The gathering may have been small, but the message was big. MSU Fossil Free, a re-launched student environmental group at Michigan State University, called on the school to divest the millions of dollars it has pledged to oil companies. According to the group’s press release, MSU has “at least $13.8 million of its endowment invested in fossil fuel companies including BP, Canadian Oil Sands, and Shell International through stocks, bonds and asset backed securities.” More»


Are there health impacts from living near animal feeding operations?
MSU Extension

Animal agriculture has become concentrated in many parts of the country with multiple operations in an area; each feeding large numbers of livestock. With this consolidation has come concern over human health impacts of exposures to odors and gases associated with livestock production, including manure storage and land application of manure to croplands. A number of studies have considered the impact on human health of living near animal feeding operations. In the 1990s, Susan Schiffman, then a professor at Duke University, conducted studies that showed people who lived near large swine farms in North Carolina self-reported increased incidence of headaches, depression, nausea and vomiting as a result of exposure to odors from swine operations. More recently, a study was conducted by Stacy Sneeringer at Wellesley College that showed that infant mortality increased in communities as livestock inventories increased, based on data available from public health sources and agricultural statistics. More»


Michigan winemakers experiment to get the most out of their grapes
Michigan Radio's Environment Report

Paolo Sabbatini is with Michigan State University, and his mission is to help grapes thrive in Michigan. "Every 10 years, you will get three years that will be very, very challenging. So, 30 percent of the time you are going to have problems in Michigan growing grapes or producing quality wines." More»


Great Lakes salmon are the focus of new video series
MSU Extension

April is an exciting time of year for salmon and trout anglers. Big lake trolling and pier fishing starts off in the southern end of Lake Michigan and the steelhead run is in in full swing in west Michigan streams. Another story unfolds in shoreline eddies, where young wild-spawned Chinook salmon feed on stream insects and put on weight for their journey to Lake Michigan. The modern Great Lakes salmon fishery began with stocking programs in the late 1960s. At that time, salmon were unable to spawn successfully due to poor water quality, degraded stream habitats, and dams that blocked fish passage or altered river flow. Although salmon are not native to the upper Great Lakes, the Chinook salmon, in particular, has been able to adapt and is now spawning in streams where conditions have improved. More»


Feeding the World's Future
MSU Today

Researchers at Michigan State University netted a $24.5 million award from the U.S. Agency for International Development, continuing MSU’s long-term commitment to helping developing nations find sustainable and secure food sources. The main objectives of USAID’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes, led by MSU, will be to increase the productivity of beans and other grain legumes (cowpea, chickpea, etc.) by smallholder farmers and to enhance the nutritional quality of diets of the poor in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the United States. More»


Anti-fracking group gears up for new ballot initiative
Great Lakes Echo/Capital News Service

Warren Wood, a hydrogeologist and geoscience professor at Michigan State University, said there’s “no question” fracking causes earthquakes, but on such a small scale that they cannot be felt in Michigan. More»


Agriculture HR resources now available on new MSU FIRM Team website
MSU Extension

As part of a concerted effort to provide Michigan farmers with tools, educational information, and announcements of upcoming events related to farm business management, the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Farm Information Resource Management (FIRM) team has recently unveiled a new website. One of the many resources on the new website is a page dedicated to labor and human resource management. The website was also highlighted at the recent 2013 Annual West Michigan Ag Labor meeting in Allendale, Mich. on March 6, 2013. More»


Thumbs on the scale
Lansing City Pulse

Michigan’s large-scale factory farms belly up to the federal Farm Bill for tens of millions of dollars in environmental funds better spent on sustainable farming, according to a report issued Wednesday by the advocacy group Less = More. At Michigan State University’s Wells Hall last week, a panel of experts, activists and farmers from the group called for public pressure to make Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, pay their own cleanup costs. More»


A changing climate's impact on water and water resources
MSU Extension

Climate change information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agree that increased levels of greenhouse gases will impact our environment in many ways. One area of concern is the influence a changing climate will have on precipitation events. For the U.S., climate change models predict northern areas will become wetter while the western and southwest regions of the U.S. will become drier. Models also predict an increase in the frequency of extreme precipitation events, more rain over shorter periods of time. Michigan is within the region of the U.S. where increased precipitation is predicted during the winter and spring seasons but summers are expected to be drier. These anticipated changes in weather patterns have the potential to have a profound impact on agriculture production and soil and water conservation practices. More»


Meijer expands Made in Michigan initiative statewide
The Wall Street Journal Market Watch

Meijer launched the Made in Michigan initiative in January 2012 with the Michigan State University Product Center for Food-Ag-Bio. Its goal is to help strengthen the state's economy by supporting Michigan small businesses. The initial offering of 49 grocery items - including marinara sauce, blueberry butter and gluten-free baking mixes - resulted in an estimated economic impact of $400,000 statewide. More»


Udderly Helpful Grant Goes to MSU's Vet School
CBS Detroit

Michigan State University’s school of veterinary medicine has received a $3 million federal grant to continue research on ways to reduce udder infections in dairy cattle. The five-year grant comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the hope of developing an intervention process for dairy operators to prevent the costly infections from occurring. More»


MSU, PHYCO2 collaborate on algae demonstration project
Algae Industry Magazine

Santa Maria, CA-based PHYCO2, an emerging algae growth and carbon dioxide sequestration company, and Michigan State University (MSU), have announced a partnership designed to generate sustainable, clean energy sources through a new method to produce algae. The partnership will demonstrate the patent-pending PHYCO2-developed technology to sequester CO2, reclaim water and continuously grow multiple types of algae at an accelerated rate without sunlight. The goal of the demonstration project is to meet the growing demand for algae for biofuels, pharmaceuticals, foods and other purposes. More»


MSU, PHYCO2 collaborate on algae growth demonstration project
MSU Today

Michigan State University and PHYCO2, an emerging algae growth and carbon dioxide sequestration company, have announced a partnership designed to generate sustainable, clean-energy sources through a new method to produce algae. The technology will be tested at MSU’s Simon Power Plant, in coordination with researchers Wei Liao and Susie Liu, faculty members in MSU’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. More»


MSU leads effort to address food challenges

Michigan State University is leading an effort to help develop sustainable ways of feeding people in large metropolitan areas around the world. The East Lansing school says representatives from the U.S., India, Kenya, South Africa, the Netherlands and Singapore met this week in Detroit. They agreed to launch an effort called The Global Innoversity. Officials from Detroit also are participating in the effort. Participants want to promote local economic development, land recovery and food security. An aim is to ensure metropolitan regions can meet the food demands of populations projected in 2050. FoodPlus Detroit was created in June as part of the effort. Faculty from Michigan State University's colleges including Agriculture and Natural Resources are involved, as well as MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension. More»


'Fat Worms' inch scientists toward better biofuel production
MSU Today

Fat worms confirm that researchers from Michigan State University have successfully engineered a plant with oily leaves -- a feat that could enhance biofuel production as well as lead to improved animal feeds. The results, published in the current issue of The Plant Cell, the journal of the American Society of Plant Biologists, show that researchers could use an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in its leaves – an uncommon occurrence for most plants. Traditional biofuel research has focused on improving the oil content of seeds. One reason for this focus is because oil production in seeds occurs naturally. Little research, however, has been done to examine the oil production of leaves and stems, as plants don't typically store lipids in these tissues. Christoph Benning, MSU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, led a collaborative effort with colleagues from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. The team's efforts resulted in a significant early step toward producing better plants for biofuels. More»


USDA invests in research to end hunger and address food security challenges
National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited South Dakota State University today to announce more than $75 million in grants for research, education and extension activities to ensure greater food security in the United States and around the world. The awards were made to teams at 21 U.S. universities to conduct research that will find solutions to increasing food availability and decreasing the number of food insecure individuals. Merrigan announced the awards at the university’s campus in Brookings, S.D., with university president David L. Chicoine and Barry Dunn, dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. Michigan State University is receiving two grants - one for $2,989,032 and a second for $2,913,199. More»


Avoiding virus dangers in 'domesticating' wild plants for biofuel use
MSU Today

In a presentation at this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Michigan State University plant biologist >strong/strong< said that when we start combining the qualities of different types of plants into one, there can be unanticipated results. More»


MSU Student pursues patent for Current Tidal
The State News

While on an internship in the New Mexican desert in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2011, an idea sparked within Jonathan DiClemente. He wanted to put windmill-type turbines in the oceans to create energy from tidal shifts, the mechanical engineering senior said. DiClemente said he had no clue his idea would inspire and lead him to be CEO of his own company, Current Tidal, which retrofits dams to make energy. He’ll do anything to protect it. More»


Face time: Xiaobo Tan, Robotic Fish Developer
The State News

Xiaobo Tan, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, created a robotic fish, or robofish, named Grace that can glide long distances and collect data for research. More»


New water-saving technology nearly doubles harvests
MSU Research

During last summer’s drought in Michigan – the worst in the last half-century – Michigan State University researchers nearly doubled corn production on state test farms using a process that inserts soil water-saving membranes below plant root zones. The subsurface water retention technology (SWRT) process developed by Alvin Smucker, MSU professor of soil biophysics and an AgBioResearch scientist, uses contoured, engineered films, strategically placed at various depths below a plant’s root zone to retain soil water. The SWRT membrane spacing also permits internal drainage during excess rainfall and provides space for root growth. More»


New water-saving technology nearly doubles harvests
MSU Research

During last summer’s drought in Michigan – the worst in the last half-century – Michigan State University researchers nearly doubled corn production on state test farms using a process that inserts soil water-saving membranes below plant root zones. The subsurface water retention technology (SWRT) process developed by Alvin Smucker, MSU professor of soil biophysics and an AgBioResearch scientist, uses contoured, engineered films, strategically placed at various depths below a plant’s root zone to retain soil water. The SWRT membrane spacing also permits internal drainage during excess rainfall and provides space for root growth. More»


Marginal lands are prime fuel source for alternative energy
MSU Today

arginal lands ­– those unsuited for food crops – can serve as prime real estate for meeting the nation’s alternative energy production goals. In the current issue of Nature, a team of researchers led by Michigan State University shows that marginal lands represent a huge untapped resource to grow mixed species cellulosic biomass, plants grown specifically for fuel production, which could annually produce up to 5.5 billion gallons of ethanol in the Midwest alone. "Understanding the environmental impact of widespread biofuel production is a major unanswered question both in the U.S. and worldwide," said Ilya Gelfand, lead author and MSU postdoctoral researcher. “We estimate that using marginal lands for growing cellulosic biomass crops could provide up to 215 gallons of ethanol per acre with substantial greenhouse gas mitigation.” More»


Lansing-based MBI gets $2.5M grant to study biofuels
Lansing State Journal

A nonprofit company affiliated with Michigan State University has been awarded a $2.5 million federal grant to study how corn sugars can be better converted into biofuels. Lansing-based MBI and Novozymes, a global biotechnology company, were awarded the funding by the U.S. Department of Energy earlier this month. MBI chief business officer Allen Julian said the biotech industry still face challenges in handling and transporting biomass, like corn stover, en route to refineries and then actually refining it in a cost-effective way so it can be used for bio-based fuels. More»


MSU biofuels expert makes list of Top 100 people in bioenergy
MSU Today

Michigan State University AgBioResearch scientist Bruce Dale was recently ranked 22th - and was the top-ranked academic - on BioFuels Digest's list of Top 100 People in Bioenergy. The list was determined by votes from readers of the magazine and the magazine’s editorial board. This marks the third year Dale, a professor in the MSU Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, has received recognition in the top 100. More»


Faculty Conversations: Jonathan Walton
MSU Today

Jonathan Walton joined the Michigan State University faculty more than 25 years ago. He’s been busy ever since. In addition to teaching Plant Biology 415, which covers topics ranging from plant hormones to photosynthesis, he’s a guest lecturer in other courses around campus. He also is the director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, More»


MSU awarded $349,695 for bioenergy and biobased products
Huron County View

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $10 million in research grants to 29 universities to spur production of bioenergy and biobased products that will lead to the development of sustainable regional systems and help create jobs. Vilsack highlighted the announcement today with a visit to Michigan State University, a grant awardee of $349,695. More»


MSU to share $10 million federal research grant to develop bio-energy, bio-based products
The Detroit News

Michigan State University is one of more than 20 universities to share $10 million in federal research grants to spur production of bio-energy and bio-based products, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday. Michigan State — the only Michigan recipient — will receive $349,695 for projects that Vilsack said will lead to the development of sustainable regional systems and create jobs. More»


Chestnuts roasting on a ... CT scanner?
MSU Today

In an effort to make sure chestnuts make it to market in good condition, a team of Michigan State University researchers is working to develop a noninvasive method of detecting internal decay in the fruit (despite the name, chestnuts are technically a fruit). What the researchers are doing is assessing the various imaging techniques currently available. “We can’t destroy the product, so we are testing some of the same technologies that the medical world uses,” said Daniel Guyer, professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering who is leading the research team. More»


Could the Farm Bill Devastate America's Birds?
New York Times

Mark Rey, executive in residence at MSU's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife publishes an opinion piece in the New York Times that questions the impact on the latest federal farm bill on migratory birds. More»


Tackling urban sustainability on global scale

As the world's urban areas continue to grow, evidenced by rampant poverty and squalor from Shanghai to Rio de Janeiro, the question becomes: How can we focus on protecting environmental resources for future generations when so many kids are dying today? That's the dilemma posed by "Urban Sustainability," a new collection of essays by eminent scholars from around the globe. The 714-page book, edited by Michigan State University's Igor Vojnovic, probes the balance between managing city growth, environmental degradation and inequality. More»


MSU Extension offers Agriculture Review at Taymouth Township Hall
Mlive Saginaw

The Michigan State University Extension offers its 2012 Agriculture Review from 8:30 a.m. to noon Monday, Dec. 10, at Taymouth Township Hall, 4343 E. Birch Run. Topics include corn trials, soybean trials, forage trials, wheat trials and bio-energy. Information is presented by Thumb Region field crop educators Mark Seamon, Bob Battel, Phil Kaatz and Martin Nagelkirk. More»


State's poinsettia growers aim to get on more shoppers' holiday lists
Crain's Detroit Business

The economic importance of the plant is one of the messages of a campaign, now in its second year, to promote the purchase of live, Michigan-grown poinsettias and Christmas trees. The "Make It a Real Michigan Christmas" campaign, supported by a $75,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty-crop grant, is an effort by the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, Michigan Floriculture Growers Council and Michigan Floral Association, in conjunction with the AgBioResearch department at Michigan State University. More»


Summer drought causes hay shortage in Michigan
Ventura County Star

The Michigan State University Extension estimates overall hay yields dropped 15 to 30 percent in the Midwest. The lower yields forced prices upward. Hay costs $2 to $6 per bale in a normal year, but now is anywhere from $6 to $15, said Don Coe, a managing partner of Black Star Farms in Leelanau County. Coe sits on the Michigan Commission of Agriculture & Rural Development. More»


MSU creating Global Center for Food Systems
Michigan Radio

Michigan State University is creating a Global Center for Food Systems Innovation thanks to a 25 million dollar award. The award comes from US AID, the federal agency overseeing foreign assistance to developing countries. MSU will fund research targeting improved agriculture production and cost effective, sustainable solutions for developing areas of the world. Ajit Srivastava is leading MSU’s efforts and says the long term focus is to build global communication that lasts well beyond the grant. "The idea", he says, "is that when the grant is over, they have something that is implemented. But more importantly the team is formed which will continue to collaborate and work together in the long run to continue to establish and address these questions." More»


New Thermoelectric Material Could Pave the Way for Low-Cost Energy Solutions
MSU College of Engineering

Michigan State University is home to one of the most advanced thermoelectric power generation research groups in the world. And now, a new thermoelectric material is on the horizon. Researchers in MSU's Center for Revolutionary Materials for Solid State Energy Conversion—an Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) funded by the U.S. Department of Energy—are developing a thermoelectric material based on natural mineral tetrahedrites. Their work was recently published in the online journal Advanced Energy Materials. More»


U-M, MSU Award Grants for Great Lakes Climate Change Research
ENews Park Forest

University of Michigan scientists and their colleagues at Michigan State University have awarded six grants to organizations across the region for projects that will help decision-makers adapt to climate change and variability in the Great Lakes basin. The grants were awarded by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center, a federally funded collaboration between U-M and MSU. GLISA researchers study issues related to climate change and variability in the Great Lakes basin and how the region can respond to climate-related risks, such as potential damages from changes in long-term temperature and precipitation patterns. More»


MSU uses $7.8 million grant to improve farming in Africa
MSU News

Michigan State University researchers will use a $7.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help eight African nations improve their sustainable farming methods. The grant, from the Gates Foundation Global Development Program, will be used to help guide policymaking efforts to intensify farming methods that meet agricultural needs while improving environmental quality in Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Programs like this are paramount to Africa, as demonstrated by more than $2.5 billion in annual spending by African governments on agricultural intensification, said Thomas Jayne, project co-director and MSU agricultural, food and resource economics faculty member. More»


Sharks: bad creatures or bad image?
University Relations

Historically, the media have been particularly harsh to sharks, and it’s affecting their survival. The results of a Michigan State University study, appearing in the current issue of the journal Conservation Biology, reviewed worldwide media coverage of sharks – and the majority isn’t good. Australian and U.S. news articles were more likely to focus on negative reports featuring sharks and shark attacks rather than conservation efforts. Allowing such articles to dominate the overall news coverage diverts attention from key issues, such as shark populations are declining worldwide and many species are facing extinction, said Meredith Gore, MSU assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife and the School of Criminal Justice. More»


WVU joins search for organic response to stinkbugs
West Virginia State Journal

In addition to WVU and Rutgers, the University of Kentucky, Michigan State University, the University of Maryland, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, Virginia Tech, the University of Tennessee, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University and the Rodale Institute are participating in the research and extension project. More»


MSU researcher helping Sweden move closer to bioenergy goals

AgBioResearch scientist Kris Berglund , along with scientists from a Swedish national research center called Bio4Energy, has received a grant to study a biobased acid that may be used as a food ingredient, solvent or aroma, in cosmetic applications or as a plasticizer in plastics. The studies will be conducted at an ethanol demonstration plant located in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. It is the only large-scale demonstration unit for biorefinery production of its kind in Sweden. The Swedish government recently announced that the country will stop using oil by 2020. Sweden has no domestic oil industry, and importing petroleum has become costly. What Sweden does have is plenty of woods — nearly 70 million acres of forestland, from which it makes not just lumber, paper and other wood products but also fuel and chemicals. More»


Theater organization teaches science in new ways
The State News

For physics professor Stuart Tessmer, his daily workload often involves inspiring the scientific minds of both college and elementary school students. Tessmer is the adviser for the MSU Science Theatre, a student organization sponsored by the MSU Physics and Astronomy Department. Using biology, chemistry and physics demonstrations, the theatre teaches science in new and interesting ways. “It’s important to get (students) to spark their interest (in science) as young as possible,” Tessmer said. “It’s hard to say why a person would decide to be a scientist, but I think those decisions really are often made at a young age, so getting in elementary schools is really key.” More»


Researchers get help playing "whack-a-mole" with sea lampry
Great Lakes Echo

If your local river starts to smell like dead sea lamprey, you may be in luck. That smell could be the solution to a long-standing invasive species problem. The EPA recently awarded Michigan State University more than $392,000 to test sea lamprey repellant. Sea lamprey are attracted to the smell of their young and repulsed by the stench of their dead. Those are keys to controlling this troublesome invasive species, said Michael Wagner, the lead researcher on the project. More»


U.S. Sen. Carl Levin visits MSU researchers involved with Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
College of Engineering

During a visit to campus today, U.S. Senator Carl Levin met with key Michigan State University researchers who are working on several Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants supporting the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). At MSU's Engineering Research Complex, Sen. Levin observed the low-cost, smart-phone-based devices developed by Syed Hashsham, professor of civil and environmental engineering. These DNA biochips support point-of-care genetic analysis systems for water, food, agriculture, and human health. Hashsham leads the team that will create an analysis tool to monitor the lakes for invasive species such as hydrilla, golden mussel, northern snakehead, killer shrimp, and Ponto-Caspian water fleas. More»


21 universities team up for Great Lakes Futures Project
The Environment Report, Michigan Radio

A new project is going to try to predict the future of the Great Lakes. It’s called... wait for it... the Great Lakes Futures Project. It’s a collaboration of 21 universities from the U.S. and Canada. More»


Opposing points of view: Raise renewable standard to create jobs, clean the air
Detroit Free Press

A study by economists and academics estimated that Proposal 3, which pushes Michigan's renewable energy standard to 25% by 2025, would create 94,000 jobs for Michigan workers -- including 31,513 construction jobs, 42,982 operation and maintenance jobs and, conservatively, 19,675 manufacturing jobs. It would spark $10.3 billion in new investment for our state. More»


Ash trees continue to hurt from beetle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

The threat from a metallic green beetle continues to spread throughout ash trees in the Great Lakes region. Many ash already are dropping leaves or changing color earlier this year than usual — both mechanisms that trees use to cope with drought, said , a forest entomologist at Michigan State University. More»


MSU to lead $1.6 million grant on crop pollination
Pork Network

USDA has awarded Michigan State University $1.6 million to lead a national crop pollination research and Extension project. The five-year program will focus on improving pollination and attracting bees to specialty farms and crops. It is part of the USDA’s $101 million initiative to support the nation’s specialty crop producers. More»


MSU, Monsanto working to fight corn rootworm
Detroit Free Press

Michigan State University said it is working with Monsanto to find ways to fight corn rootworm, one of U.S. agriculture's most damaging pests. The university said Monsanto is pledging up to $3 million to support research on rootworm. MSU said the Corn Rootworm Knowledge Research Program will give awards of up to $250,000 per year for up to three years for research on "corn rootworm biology, genomics and management issues." More»


MSU hopes to create a buzz from federal grant
NBC News

Michigan State University researchers say they hope to generate some buzz with a $1.6 million federal grant. The East Lansing school announced Wednesday that the U.S. Agriculture Department grant will focus on supporting specialty crop yields and profit by supporting wild and managed bees. A team will lead a national crop pollination research and extension project. More»


MSU earns EPA grants to fight high-risk invasive species
University Relations

Michigan State University has received nearly $1 million in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, funds that will be used to keep invasive species from entering the Great Lakes basin. One grant, totaling about $600,000 will be used to develop a hand-held, genetic analysis tool to monitor the lakes for invasive species. Syed Hashsham, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, leads the team that will create an analysis tool to monitor the lakes for invasive species such as hydrilla, golden mussel, northern snakehead, killer shrimp, and Ponto-Caspian water fleas. More»


MSU to lead $1.6 million grant on national crop pollination
University Relations

The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded Michigan State University $1.6 million to lead a national crop pollination research and extension project. The five-year project will focus on supporting specialty crop yields and profit by supporting wild and managed bees. It is part of the USDA’s $101 million initiative to support the nation’s specialty crop producers. More»


MSU hosts international student summit
University Relations

International students will present research projects in the areas of food production and sustainable energy. They will spend Monday through Wednesday preparing for their presentations. Academic leaders from the students' home universities will spend those days with MSU and Tokyo University of Agriculture faculty members discussing food security, global climate change, crop protection and the role of women in agriculture. More»


MSU's Bailey GREENhouse Opening to Celebrate Sustainable Food Cycle
Fox 47 News

Grand opening events have been set to celebrate Bailey GREENhouse, Michigan State University’s newest hoop house. The herbs grown in Bailey GREENhouse will be tended to by students of the Residential Initiative for the Study of the Environment (RISE), a living-learning residential program housed in Bailey Hall. Herbs from the GREENhouse will be served at Brody Square dining hall and The State Room Restaurant at Kellogg Center. The herbs are grown in soil with composted pre-consumer food waste from Brody Square. Guests are invited to come explore the newly constructed hoop house and taste appetizers with greens from the structure. More»


Superman-strength bacteria produce gold
University Relations

At a time when the value of gold has reached an all-time high, Michigan State University researchers have discovered a bacterium’s ability to withstand incredible amounts of toxicity is key to creating 24-karat gold. More»


Evolution: Scientists Grow 56,000 Generations in Lab to Watch
ABC World News

ABC World News talks with Zachary Blount, postdoctoral researcher of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University, about his study on the evolution of E.coli. More»


MSU, Monsanto back research to fight corn rootworm

Michigan State says the Corn Rootworm Knowledge Research Program will give awards of up to $250,000 per year for up to three years for research on "corn rootworm biology, genomics and management issues." More»


Fall lawn care tips from MSU turfgrass expert Kevin Frank

Turfgrass expert Kevin Frank is an MSU AgBioResearch scientist and professor who joins Greening of the Great Lakes to talk about fall lawn care tips for Michigan homeowners, especially after a hot, dry summer. More»


New gene could lead to better bug-resistant plants
University Relations

Research led by Michigan State University and appearing on the cover of this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrates that domestic tomatoes could re-learn a thing or two from their wild cousins. Long-term cultivation has led to tomato crops losing beneficial traits common to wild tomatoes. Anthony Schilmiller, MSU research assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, was able to identify a gene that is involved in one of these beneficial traits. More»


Once again, MSU’s supply chain program tops in nation
University Relations

Michigan State University’s supply chain program continues setting the national standard, according to U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings of America’s Best Colleges, out today. More»


MSU Extension weather station at Applewood estate in Flint to benefit area farmers, gardeners

Michigan State University Extension at Applewood has installed a new weather station to help Flint area farmers and gardeners plan for pest control and weather conditions. More»


Michigan State's FRIB funding likely flat for six months
Lansing State Journal

A stop-gap funding bill that lawmakers hope will keep the federal government operating through March 27 would keep federal funding steady for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams planned for Michigan State University. More»


Scientists urge new approaches to plant research
University Relations

New approaches to plant researchIn a new paper published last week in Science, Robert Last (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) and a colleague discuss why, if humans are to survive as a species, we must turn more to plants for any number of valuable lessons.“Metabolism of plants provides humans with fiber, fuel, food and therapeutics,” Last said. “As the human population grows and nonrenewable energy sources diminish, we need to rely increasingly on plants and to increase the sustainability of agriculture.” More»

Isoprene research could lead to eco-friendly car tires
University Relations

The world’s rubber supplies are in peril, and automobile tire producers are scrambling to seek alternative solutions. Tom Sharkey (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) believes isoprene, a gas given off by many trees, ferns and mosses, could be a viable option. Some plants use it as a mechanism to tolerate heat stress as opposed to most crops, which stay cool through evaporation. More»

Increasing predator-friendly land can help farmers reduce costs
University Relations

Predator.Having natural habitat in farming areas that supports ladybugs could help increase their abundance in crops where they control pests and help farmers reduce their costs, a new MSU study says. However, natural habitats also provide vital food and shelter resources and may be more important for pest control, said Megan Woltz (Entomology), co-author of the study that appears in the current issue of Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. More»

Queen of Spades key to new evolutionary hypothesis

Sleight of hand is a trait that belongs mainly to humans. Or so scientists thought.
Studies of common, microscopic ocean plankton named Prochlorococcus show that humans aren’t the only ones who can play a mean game of cards. Their method lurks in the Black Queen Hypothesis, as it’s called, after the Queen of Spades in the card game Hearts.
Scientists Jeffrey Morris and Richard Lenski (Crop and Soil Sciences; BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action) and Erik Zinser of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, knew that smaller genomes were the norm in symbiotic microbes–those that have reciprocally beneficial relationships–but wondered how non-symbionts got away with cutting out functions it appeared they needed. More»

Bananas to biogas: Campus closing food waste loop
Great Lakes Echo

Laurie Thorp digs into a row of worm compost at the Student Organic Farm. Photo: Natalie KolbMichigan State University is one of the few universities in the country to implement a food waste program, said Brendan Sinclair, a university employee who manages the worm composting systems that are part of an innovative approach to managing waste... "We are taking literally food garbage and turning it into rich, fantastic soil," said Laurie Thorp (Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment). More»

MSU set to begin work on energy-producing anaerobic digester
University Relations

MSU's new anaerobic digester will be located at the Dairy Research, Teaching and Extension Center. When completed, it will re-use waste from MSU's farms and dining halls to create energy for some on-campus buildings. Photo: MSUMSU is poised to begin work on a new anaerobic digester, a system that will not only help re-use waste from MSU's farms and dining halls, but also will create energy for some on-campus buildings. At its April 13 meeting, the MSU Board of Trustees authorized the administration to begin work on the project, an approximately $5 million venture that should pay for itself in less than 15 years. "Once complete, this system will be the largest on a college campus in the United States," said Dana Kirk (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering). More»

Journal shines spotlight on long-term ecological research
University Relations

In celebration of the LTER program, which has been in existence for nearly 30 years, six new papers relating to the importance of such long-term research have been published in the scientific journal "BioScience." Phil Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences) and Doug Landis (Entomology) – both MSU AgBioResearch scientists – are among the group of LTER researchers with articles published in the "BioScience" issue. There are more than 26 sites throughout the world, including the KBS LTER site at the MSU W.K. Kellogg Biological Station near Kalamazoo. More»

Bio-industry says it can boost agricultural economy
Holland Sentinel

Cornfield.  Photo from wikicommons.MSU has received a federal grant to help commercialize laboratory research. Douglas Gage (MSU BioEconomy Network), had this to say about it: "This effort recognizes the challenges of bridging the so-called 'valley of death' where many innovations fail," he said. "Ultimately the bio-economy will depend upon a reliable and cost-effective supply of non-food biomass." More»

Bio-industry says it can boost agricultural economy
Holland Sentinel

MSU received a federal grant to help commercialize laboratory research, said Douglas Gage (BioEconomy Network). "This effort recognizes the challenges of bridging the so-called 'valley of death' where many innovations fail," he said.


2011 Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) report


Cover image of 2011 Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center report. The annual GLBRC report highlights diverse MSU work on environmental aspects of the bioeconomy.

  • Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) leading a team developing a less costly way of deconstructing plant biomass into its component sugars.
  • Ilya Gelfand (Kellogg Biological Station and Phil Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences) have found that converting Conservation Reserve Program land to corn and soybean production has high carbon costs.
  • Pragnya Eranki, Bryan Bals, and Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) are looking at whether localized biomass processing can reduce carbon emissions and benefit local communities.

Ethanol mandate not the best option
University Relations

Many people are willing to pay a premium for ethanol, but not enough to justify the government mandate for the corn-based fuel, an MSU economist argues. Soren Anderson (Economics and Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics) studied the demand for ethanol, or E85, in the United States. He found that when ethanol prices rose 10 cents per gallon, demand for ethanol fell only 12 percent to 16 percent on average. His study suggests that some people are, in fact, willing to pay more to help protect the environment. But from an economic perspective, mandating ethanol doesn’t appear to be the best option, Anderson said. More cost-effective approaches include giving consumers options or incentives for driving less or buying more efficient cars. More»

Controversial wood-to-ethanol plant may finally get under way in Upper Peninsula
Detroit Free Press

Raymond Miller (Forest Biomass Innovation Center) has participated in a public-private effort to facilitate the project. He said the biorefinery will not deplete the forest resources. "We grow between two and three times as much wood each year as we use," he said. More»

Social benefits of green materials
Guardian (U.K.)

LEED certification logo. Source: U.S. Green Building Council"Most people think of payback in terms of smaller energy bills. Yet occupants represent nearly 90 percent of the cost of running a building, especially an office building. Better productivity from your employees is a big-time payback," said Matt Syal (Construction Management). More»

All female team trains microbes to clean up nuclear waste

Team Reguera. Image credit: Michael Steger.When people enter microbiologist Gemma Reguera’s (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) lab, one of the first things they notice is that it's staffed nearly with all female researchers. More»

Away from petroleum: Using bacteria to produce organic acids from organic waste
College of Natural Science

Claire Vieille (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) was recently awarded a $1 million grant from the USDA to study how to use the bacterium Actinobacillus succinogenes and the feedstock glycerol to produce succinate, which is used to make polyesters, solvents, nylons, and resins for the auto industry and is currently made from petroleum. Vieille’s bio-production system could help wean a portion of the chemical industry from a petroleum product. More»

Auto suppliers race to cash in on new fuel-economy standards
Detroit Free Press

As new fuel-economy standards drive technology innovation in automobiles, changes to traditional engines will occur in the interim. "We'll still be using the internal combustion engine for the next 50 years," said professor Harold Schock (Mechanical Engineering). More»

Researchers find potential key for unlocking biomass energy
University Relations

MSU researchers have unlocked a key that could make biomass an economically viable biofuel, photo source University Relations Pretreating non-edible biomass - corn leaves, stalks or switch grass - holds the keys for unlocking its energy potential and making it economically viable. Shishir Chundawat and Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) led a team of researchers in identifying a potential pretreatment method that can make plant cellulose five times more digestible by enzymes that convert it into ethanol, a useful biofuel. Their research was published in the current issue of Journal of the American Chemical Society. More»

MSU AgBioResearch: Leading innovation in food, natural resources and energy

Steve Pueppke (AgBioResearch) said the major goal of MSU AgBioResearch is “to help make Michigan's economy as viable, environmentally sound and sustainable as possible.”


Next-generation MSU biofuel technology wins U.S. scale-up support
University Relations

biomass, image courtesy of MSU University Relations, photo by Kurt StepnitzA $4.3 million federal grant will help scale up advanced biofuel technology developed by Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science). Dale developed a method to turn agricultural waste and nonfood plants into material easily processed into biofuel and chemicals.More»


Downside to biodegradable products? Methane, Discovery News

logo of Biodegradable Products InstituteWhen biodegradable trash ends up in landfills, it breaks down more quickly than ordinary garbage does, suggests a new study. The result is a more rapid release of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming…. The finding should not be over-sensationalized or taken out of context, warned Ramani Narayan (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science). More»

Biocartons may double sweet cherry shelf life
Capital Press

cherries, image courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsAn MSU team is testing more environmental plastic packaging as a way to prolong the shelf life of sweet cherries. Eva Almenar (Packaging) and other researchers may have a product available for commercial use in 2012. The plastic is made of polylactic acid, which is biodegradable, compostable, made from renewable resources and has been approved by the FDA for contact with food. More»


Transparent photovoltaic cells turn windows into solar panels
New York Times

Richard Lunt, image courtesy of Geoffrey Supran/ MITIf the transparent cells ultimately prove commercially viable, the power they generate could significantly offset the energy use of large buildings, said Richard Lunt (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science). More»

Solar cells more efficient than photosynthesis – for now
University Relations

In a head-to-head battle of harvesting the sun’s energy, solar cells beat plants, according to a new paper in Science. But scientists think they can even up the playing field, says David Kramer (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology). “The efficiency of photosynthesis, and our ability to improve it, is critical to whether the entire biofuels industry is viable.” The paper summarizes several specific approaches to improving photosynthesis. More»

MSU nets $2.9 million from USDA to further biofuel research
University Relations

plant research, image courtesy of Carolyn Malmstrom Carolyn Malmstrom (Plant Biology), David Rothstein (Forestry), and Claire Vieille (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics), will use three five-year grants totaling $2.9 million to focus on various aspects of producing biofuels. Malmstrom, with entomology professors Doug Landis and Rufus Isaacs, will work to enhance the benefits of perennial grass-based bioenergy systems. Rothstein will look at the impacts of converting herbaceous open lands to short-rotation woody biomass crops. Vieille will work to develop a microbial process that converts a byproduct of biodiesel. More»

Advancing the bioeconomy: Overview of Michigan's recent progress
MSU Research

The MSU Product Center has published a series of white papers on the status and potential of Michigan’s bioeconomy. The white papers address Michigan’s position in the national market , Michigan’s progress , and future scenarios. More»

MSU wind energy research: A special report
MSU Research

A special report details MSU’s wind energy research, with features on MSU expertise related to wind turbine design, power electronics, composite materials, and issues of supply chain management and land policy. More»

Race to the pump
Chemical and Engineering News

For biofuels to reach the U.S. market... these technologies have to fit into the existing transportation fuel infrastructure. Decision-making typically has focused on how to convert biomass, but it should be refocused on which raw material should be used, argued Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science).
Chemical & Engineering News also has a profile of Dale.


Michigan holds strong potential to lead the bioeconomy

Michigan's strong research institutes, diverse agriculture and plentiful forests position it to become a bioeconomy leader given the political will, according to Chris Peterson (Agriculture, Food, and Resource Economics). Another plus is that Michigan didn't over-invest in corn-based ethanol and biodiesel plants, said Peterson. More»

Energy transition moving forward at MSU
University Relations

Efforts to make the transition from coal and natural gas to 100 percent renewable energy are under way at MSU. MSU is engaging in an energy-transitioning process. Staff and administrators have collected data, created educational and financial models, and commissioned a study to evaluate energy infrastructure. A new steering committee will identify strategies for meeting the goal. The committee seeks your feedback; feedback forms are available at More»

Growing biofuel crops in unusual places
University Relations

Dennis Pennington (Extension Agriculture and Agribusiness) is working with a team to determine whether biofuel crops can be produced on nontraditional land, such as highway rights of way, vacant urban land and airport property. “When producing crops for biofuels, we don’t want to take away farmland that’s being used for food crops,” Pennington said. “So the question is, where else could we plant?” The project will be funded in part by a $476,000 grant from state government. More»

Biofuel grasslands better for birds than ethanol staple corn
University Relations

Developing biofuel from native perennials instead of corn in the Midwest′s rolling grasslands would better protect threatened bird populations, MSU research suggests. Federal mandates and market forces both are expected to promote rising biofuel production, but the environmental consequences of turning more acreage over to row crops for fuel are a serious concern, according to researcher Bruce Robertson (Kellogg Biological Station and Entomology). “Native perennial grasses might provide an opportunity to produce biomass in ways that are compatible with the conservation of biodiversity and important ecosystem services such as pest control,” Robertson said.” Collaborators on the research, which was published in GCB (Global Change Biology) Bioenergy, include Doug Schemske and Liz Loomis, both at KBS .
MSNBC had the story.


MSU looks into turning leftover food into electricity

waste food, image courtesy of WKAR In the new food service area at MSU’s Brody Square, today's leftovers could be turning into an energy source for tomorrow. Steve Safferman (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering) explains: "Food waste from a cafeteria, from processing plants, has a lot of embedded energy in it, and if we can take that food waste and, instead of putting it into a landfill, put it into a reactor and get energy from it, then we're taking it back to a useful purpose." More»

ESPP hosts bioeconomy symposium

bamboo, image courtesy of MSU Bioeconomy NetworkIn December 2010, ESPP organized a networking event for faculty who received funds in 2009-2010 from the Michigan Economic Development Council (MEDC) for work on the bioeconomy. The symposium was an opportunity to bring together faculty members from all areas of MSU to allow connections to happen, said ESPP director Jinhua Zhao in his opening remarks. Through small workgroups, the symposium participants will continue and expand their collaborative work this spring semester. “I actually thought when the money was all spent that would be it,” said Steve Pueppke (Michigan AgBio Research) who saw the symposium as “an opportunity to break down barriers, explore new activities, and create new foundations.” The agenda and abstracts from the event can be found here. More»

MSU leading the way in green packaging

green packaging, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons “Recycling and reuse are important components of green packaging and so is the use of biological materials,” said Joe Hotchkiss (Packaging). “The challenge is to take renewable resources and turn them into packages that have equal or better performance standards.” More»

Researchers find indirect land use change impact minimal
Biofuels Journal

Coinciding with the Department of Energy research, a paper published in Environmental Science & Technology and authored by Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Material Sciences)…found that significantly larger volumes of biofuels can be produced without incurring indirect land use change. More»

MSU biofuels expert makes list of top 100 people in bioenergy
University Relations

Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) has claimed the 22nd spot on Biofuels Digest’s list of the top 100 people in bioenergy. More»

Scrap-tire market development grants increase reuse in Michigan
Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment

... MSU, partnering with the Ingham County Road Commission, will receive a $453,199 grant for 50 percent of the cost to install and test three different modified asphalt pavement designs or types of modified asphalt pavement. More»

FTC: General green claims don't wash
Chicago Tribune

green seal, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons... "Degradable," one of the most widely used — and misused phrases — can only be employed if a product is capable of decomposing in a landfill within a year. As a result, consumers can expect to see far fewer degradability claims, says Susan Selke (Packaging). More»

Power electronics lab drives renewable energy research
College of Engineering

Fang Peng and Bingsen Wang (Electrical and Computer Engineering) work in collaboration to develop technologies to keep pace with demand for renewable energy, such as wind, solar and hybrid electric. Peng’s team is working to make renewable energy sources and high power electronics adaptable for smart power grids, while Wang’s is focused on improving the power converter technology necessary to make this successful. More»

MSU research assists Dow energy efficiency projects
State News

Michigan homes could benefit from a new initiative focusing on retrofitting existing structures using energy efficient insulation, equipment and other strategies to reduce energy consumption by up to 50 percent. MSU’s School of Planning, Design and Construction and the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research’s Office for Survey Research will join Dow Building and Construction, Habitat for Humanity International and Ferris State University on a multiyear initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Tim Mrozowski (School of Planning, Design & Construction) is project coordinator. More»

Oil spill cleanup workers include many very, very small ones
New York Times

Jay Lennon (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) said the gene sequencing helped show how Alcanivorax could break down the surface tension in fluids and attack oil. More»

Bruce Dale tapped twice for bioenergy expertise
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station

Adding to numerous honors received throughout the more than 30 years of his career, Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) was recently asked to lend his expertise to two high-level efforts aimed at advancing renewable energy technologies.
Dale was invited to serve as an expert reviewer for the draft International Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and was confirmed as a member of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More»

Waste-to-energy research and teaching facility opens
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Steve Safferman with digesterMSU’s new Anaerobic Digester Research and Education Center will advance the technology of farm and food waste conversion to energy through cutting-edge research and will play a key role in expanding Michigan’s bioeconomy.


Dead zone in gulf linked to ethanol production
San Francisco Chronicle

... As to which is worse, the oil spill or the hypoxia, "it's a really tough call," says Nathaniel Ostrom (Zoology). "There's no real answer to that question." ... More»

Genetic discoveries could lead to healthier vegetable oil, improved biofuels
University Relations

Genetic discoveries from a shrub called the burning bush, known for its brilliant red fall foliage, could fire new advances in biofuels and low-calorie food oils. Plant Biology researchers Timothy Durett, John Ohlrogge, Michael Pollard, and others published the research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More»

Food vs. fuel: Scientists say growing grain for food is more energy-efficient
Michigan Agriculture Experiment Station

Using productive farmland to grow crops for food instead of fuel is more energy-efficient, MAES scientists concluded after analyzing 17 years' worth of data to help settle the food versus fuel debate. "It's 36 percent more efficient to grow grain for food than for fuel," said lead author Ilya Gelfand (Kellogg Biological Station). "The ideal is to grow corn for food, then leave half the leftover stalks and leaves on the field for soil conservation and produce cellulosic ethanol with the other half." Gelfand’s co-authors in the Environmental Science & Technology paper were Phil Robertson and Sieglinde Snapp (Crop and Soil Sciences). More»

Leaders chosen for MSU Extension institutes
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

New institutes have emerged from MSU Extension’s statewide restructuring. Wendy Powers (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering) will direct the “Institute for Enhancing Michigan's First Green Industry: Agriculture and Agribusiness.” She will direct education efforts across all agriculture and agribusiness issues. Rick Foster (Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies) will direct the “Institute for Greening Michigan: Leveraging Natural and Human Assets for Prosperity.” He will direct education efforts in community and economic development, natural resources and stewardship, food systems and resource allocation as it applies to finances, housing and energy.


Students gain research experience through plant genomics program
University Relations

MSU will use a National Science Foundation “Research Experiences for Undergraduates” (REU) grant to fund a 10-week summer research program designed to provide intensive experience for students in areas such as biochemistry, genetics and cutting-edge biological science methods. Robert Last (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) is the project’s principal investigator. More»

Faculty conversations: Bruce Dale
University Relations

Chemical engineering and materials science professor Bruce Dale discusses his research in biofuels and bioenergy. More»

State biofuel subsidies costly but effective, MSU research shows
University Relations

States aiming to lead the emerging biofuel industry might need to ante up substantial subsidies and tax incentives to ethanol producers just to get in the game, says Mark Skidmore (Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics). “State subsidies have played an important role in ethanol plant location decisions," Skidmore explains. "It's up to a state's political leaders to decide if … the benefits of ethanol production are worth the cost." More»

MSU: Bleeding and growing green
Capital Gains

... Plants were key to MSU’s founding as a land grant college 155 years ago, and they are integral to it today as it contributes to a new economy based on renewable resources. ... More»

New bioeconomy umbrella organization created
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station

MSU's expanding bioeconomy activities have prompted development of a new umbrella organization: the MSU BioEconomy Network, which takes over and replaces the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies. More»

Right now, corn is most profitable cellulosic biofuel crop in Michigan, research says
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station

Corn fieldWhen farmers are deciding which crops to grow for cellulosic biofuels, return on investment is one critical variable. Corn stalks and leaves currently offer the most profit, according to new research by Scott Swinton (Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics), who teamed up with Kurt Thelen (Crop and Soil Sciences) and Laura James (Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics) to analyze the economics of growing various crops for cellulosic ethanol. More»

Fermenting fodder into fuel
University Relations

Identifying renewable fuel materials and developing processes that produce environmentally friendly, cost-competitive biofuels are becoming increasingly important.

Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Material Sciences) is studying ways to use agricultural waste – the plant debris left after crops are harvested – as raw material for biofuels. More»

Biofuel crop diversity adds value, Michigan State researchers say
University Relations

Diversified biofuel sourcesDiverse biofuel plantings such as native prairie attract more beneficial insects than do single crops such as corn, MSU scientists find. Therefore, biofuel policies should take such added value into account, they urge. “We found that the diversity of the plants has a direct effect on the number and diversity of beneficial insects," said Doug Landis (Entomology), co-author of the study in BioEnergy Research.

"While there were similar numbers of bee species in each crop, the abundance of bees was three to four times higher in switchgrass and native prairie than in corn," said Rufus Isaacs (Entomology), study co-author. More»

Ethanol fuels hopes and a lot of debate
Capital News Service (MSU)

Could ethanol be the key to Michigan's renewable energy future? Ethanol has become more popular as a renewable energy source. It's promoted as an eco-friendly tool to reduce air pollution because it can be made from common crops such as sugar cane, potato and corn. ... The issue of greenhouse gas emissions from various renewable fuels is contentious, particularly with corn, says Steven Pueppke, director of the Office of Biobased Technologies at Michigan State University. "But there are very few people who would argue that we try to solve all of the country's energy problems by simply turning corn into ethanol," he says. "There's agreement, though, that second-generation fuels have significantly stronger greenhouse gas benefits." More»

Carbon rules could damage Michigan's biofuel industry
Detroit News (op-ed)

Biofuels are one of several important options for reducing carbon emissions. But carbon credit legislation under consideration doesn't distinguish between different sources of biofuel carbon. This is a carbon accounting error that will hurt Michigan. ... Phil Robertson is university distinguished professor of crop and soil sciences at Michigan State University. More»

MSU, Michigan Tech sign contract with renewable resource company
University Relations

Ensuring a sustainable supply of woody biomass for the state's first cellulosic ethanol plant is the goal of a research partnership between MSU and Michigan Technological University, supported by Frontier Renewable Resources of Kinross, Mich. "Each project is led by two researchers – one from MSU and one from MTU – and is aimed at ensuring the environmental, economic and social sustainability of biofuels in Michigan," said Raymond Miller, MSU forest biomass development coordinator. More»

Students and Faculty Taking Action

Recovery.govESPP affiliates and other environmental researchers at MSU are claiming federal stimulus dollars to conduct a variety of projects on topics including climate change, biofuels and pollution cleanup. Among the recipients:

  • Alison Cupples (Civil and Environmental Engineering) was awarded $300,000 from the National Science Foundation to study bioremediation of contaminants from leaking underground storage tanks. Her research team will improve knowledge of the microorganisms used to remove contaminants that can migrate into drinking water.
  • Andrew Finley (Forestry, Geography) landed $70,506 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to develop models for predicting the health effects of climate change. The project aims to boost public health planning by improving prediction of diseases in specific regions.
  • David Hyndman (Geological Sciences) is using a $243,532 NSF grant to model the impacts of climate change and land use on the hydrologic cycle and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes basin. The project will explore the dynamics of interaction between plants and water across land cover types, and will have implications for climate models, biofuel crop development, land use policy and other topics.
  • G. Philip Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences) earned a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to support biofuel sustainability research at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.
  • Randall Schaetzl (Geography) received $185,086 from NSF to use a new method for dating loess deposits, which will generate missing information about glacial and postglacial environments in the Midwest. The work will provide data on loess and sand deposits that have confounded soil scientists and geologic mappers.
  • Julie Winkler (Geography) will work to fill gaps in knowledge about northerly and southerly jet streams in the lower atmosphere over the central United States, using a $421,610 NSF grant. The project’s results will be useful both for short- and long-term weather forecasting, in setting a baseline to assess climate disruption, and for assessing wind energy potential. Graduate, undergraduate and high school students will be involved in the research, including underrepresented minorities.


Miscounting bioenergy benefits may increase greenhouse gas release
University Relations

A fixable error in the way carbon is counted in current U.S. climate legislation and in the Kyoto Protocol could undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using biofuels, says a premier group of national environmental and land-use scientists.

"The promise of biofuels made from biomass is huge, from both climate mitigation and economic perspectives," said Phil Robertson, MSU professor of crop and soil sciences and one of the authors of the paper "Fixing a Critical Climate Accounting Error" published in the Oct. 23 issue of the journal Science. "But the promise could come up short if we don't pay attention to the details,” Robertson said. More»

Michigan stakes claim in clean fuel race
Detroit News

The race to change the way Americans fuel their vehicles is propelling Michigan to the forefront in pioneering alternatives... For Michigan, whose second largest industry is agriculture, biofuels hold promise, although their growth in the marketplace has slacked in recent years because of limited infrastructure and too few fueling stations offering bio-based blends. Ethanol gasoline blends also are 30 percent less fuel-efficient than regular gasoline, even though cost per gallon is similar. "If we could build off some of the research it could be really good for Michigan economically," says Bruce Dale, chemical engineering professor at Michigan State University and a leading researcher on cellulosic biofuel. More»

MSU researchers lead the way in alternative energy research
University Relations

Michigan State University's College of Engineering is working to improve the world's alternative energy future thanks to three grants totaling $141.5 million. "We think that no single solution is going to be able to address the energy problem we're confronting today," said Satish Udpa, dean of the College of Engineering. "So we feel we need to be working in several areas simultaneously. We have strong programs in thermoelectrics, biofuels and battery storage technology." More»

Switch may boost environment
Lansing State Journal, Africa Leader

If biofuels have the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, to allay our dependence on fossil fuels, they also have the potential to bring drastic changes to the landscape. By one recent estimate, if biofuels were to account for 10 percent of the fuel used for transportation, growing the crops to produce them could require 8 percent of the world's arable land, perhaps more. Those changes have the potential to be changes for the better, says Phil Robertson, professor at Michigan State University, who leads sustainability research at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. It depends on what crops are ultimately used for biofuel and how and where they're planted.

For a related story, see Roll Call

Microbes provide solutions to energy issues
College of Natural Science

After three years of research, Gemma Reguera (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Crop and Soil Sciences) has developed a process that can be harnessed to produce clean, cheap electricity and fuel from plant biomass. Microbial fuel cells are attracting interest as they are inexpensive to manufacture and produce no harmful by-products. More»

Birds are chirping over cellulosic biofuels
Scientific American

With palm oil plantations overrunning Indonesian rainforests and corn-based ethanol in the U.S. spurring new deforestation abroad, it may seem like biofuels and biodiversity don't mix. That's why ecologist Bruce Robertson at Michigan State University's W. K. Kellogg Biological Station and his colleagues wanted to know how birds and bugs would fare if the U.S. switches from corn-based ethanol production to cellulosic biofuels based on grasses. "Switchgrass production is going to have some measurable biodiversity benefits both for [insect] and grassland bird populations," Robertson said Tuesday at the Ecological Society of America meeting, held here this week. More»

Srivastava lands elite fellowship
University Relations

Ajit Srivastava (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering) has been named a Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, an honor achieved by only about two percent of the society's members. Srivastava studies biological and agricultural engineering systems at the interface between machinery and agricultural materials. His research into food production and processing, postharvest engineering and bio-based renewable energy systems, among other topics, have greatly impacted programs at MSU and nationally. More»

Environmental researchers earn university laurels
University Relations

G. Philip Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences) and Kay Holekamp (Zoology) were among the ten MSU faculty members named University Distinguished Professors in July. The title is among the highest honors that can be bestowed on a faculty member by the university. Those selected for the title have been recognized nationally and internationally for the importance of their teaching, research and public service achievements. More»

New protein leads the way in biofuels
University Relations

Fueling a vehicle made with biofuel from a rutabaga may be in the future because of research breakthroughs by a team of scientists led by Christoph Benning (Biochemistry). More»

Biofuel expert Bruce Dale co-authors Scientific American cover story
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station

"Grassoline at the Pump," an article co-written by Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science), is the cover story in the July 2009 issue of Scientific American.

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